Candidates in Texas’ Democratic primaries should stop taking aim at each other

Noah M. Horwitz

Amid all the talk of the gubernatorial and the lieutenant governor campaigns, as well as the competitive local primaries, it is easy to lose track of the many other important positions Texans will be voting on at the polls this year. 

Perhaps the most underrated of these contests is the race for the U.S. Senate. With fiercely competitive primaries for both the Democratic and Republican candidates, the two primaries thus far have nearly descended into a theater of the absurd. Particularly in the case of the Democratic primary, the major candidates have taken to attacking one another and focusing on unrelated issues such as endorsements from state senators rather than debating policy or zeroing in on the incumbent. The three major candidates, David Alameel, Michael Fjetland and Maxey Scherr, are doing this at the expense of productive campaigning against Senator Cornyn.

By most accounts, winning the Republican primary in this State nearly assures victory in the general election, while whoever captures the Democratic primary will face quite the uphill battle come November. Accordingly, it is both counterproductive and unwise for the Democratic candidates to focus on anything other than the incumbent, Sen. John Cornyn.

But, instead, candidate Maxey Scherr, an attorney from El Paso, has focused on the state’s other senator, Ted Cruz. 

“Texas is on ‘Cruz Control,’” Scherr recently stated in an online advertisement. “Ted Cruz is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with Washington, and John Cornyn is along for the ride. He’s on autopilot, voting the way Ted Cruz wants him to. If Texas stays on ‘Cruz Control,’ we’re headed for a wreck.” 

Scherr has even made a point of referencing controversial comments made by Cruz — and by Cruz alone — as a major reason for the campaign.

Scherr and another Democratic candidate, David Alameel, a dentist and multi-millionaire businessman from the Dallas area, have also sparred over the Alameel’s progressive credentials. Alameel has donated thousands of dollars to Republican candidates, and, according to unconfirmed reports, he embraced anti-abortion positions during a previous campaign for Congress. Oddly enough, Cornyn, the man against whom Alameel may run in the general election, is among the Republicans to whom Alameel has previously donated.

“David Alameel, the alleged Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, has bankrolled the anti-choice Republican agenda for years,” Scherr said. “He has given $1.6 million to the Republicans who oppose Roe v. Wade and vote to erode a woman’s right to choose at every turn.” 

Scherr expressed shock and indignation at Alameel’s support for other Republicans, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sens. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, and Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. 

Alameel, for his part, refused comment to me — or everyone else, for that matter — on these topics. Indeed, he has not sat down for interviews with major newspapers, nor has he answered questions from Democratic grassroots organizations and panels. At the recent endorsement meeting of the University Democrats (which, I should note, I am a member of), a representative of Alameel’s campaign refused to take any questions from the audience. Alameel is not talking about Cornyn in this race; instead, all he is talking about is his high-profile endorsements from state Sens. Wendy Davis, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, and Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

Michael Fjetland, an attorney and businessman from Houston and the third major candidate in the primary, similarly, had no qualms about taking shots against his opponents. Fjetland, said that Scherr — whom he called a “young labor lawyer” — would not “make a big impression” in the general election. Similarly, he bemoaned Alameel’s recent tailwind in the primary, saying, “there isn’t enough money to buy a Texas election” — an obvious jab at Alameel’s heavy spending in his previous contest.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate will face an enormously uphill battle to defeat two-term incumbent Cornyn, arguably the second most powerful Republican in the senate. Given that all these candidates are political novices with a high chance of being ignored by the media, perhaps it will be even more uphill than in previous cycles.

Cornyn is not, by any means, a moderate Republican. Whether his ultra-conservatism has been best exemplified by opposition to routine Cabinet nominations or a stand against renewal of the Violence against Women Act, Sen. Cornyn is often one of just a handful of senators on the extreme right-wing of American politics. There are plenty of opportunities for the Democratic opposition to critique him. Instead, they have sadly decided to run down one another instead.

Horwitz is a government junior from Houston.