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What will happen to Ted Cruz’s Senate seat if he runs for president?

U.S Sen. Ted Cruz speaks to parents, educators, students and legislators at the annual Texas School Choice rally on the south steps of the state Capitol in January 2019.
Gabriel C. Pérez
U.S Sen. Ted Cruz speaks to parents, educators, students and legislators at the annual Texas School Choice rally on the south steps of the state Capitol in January 2019.

In nearly all of the last 17 presidential cycles, a Texan candidate has made a run for the White House. Coming off of a busy election season, would-be candidates in 2024 are already talking coy about their intentions. According to many politics watchers, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is a likely Republican candidate.

Those rumors have left both Republicans and Democrats eyeballing the junior senator’s seat. Cruz’s term is set to expire in 2024 if he doesn’t run for Senate again.

Longtime Texas political writer Gromer Jeffers of The Dallas Morning News writes that a Cruz presidential run has the potential to be a game-changer. He joined the Texas Standard to discuss the implications for Texas’ political scene.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:

Texas Standard: How do you see a Cruz candidacy as being a game-changer for Texas?

Gromer Jeffers: Well, in two ways. One, it puts his seat up for grabs, or the notion of his seat being up for grabs. It puts that out there, because his focus would be running for president if that’s what he chose to do. And we all know that he wants to run for president.

Even though he could run for Senate and president at the same time, it still would create a list of contenders, people lining up considering the possibility of Cruz being part of the national ticket. It might embolden some folks to run, even if Cruz does decide to run simultaneously for both offices.

What are Republicans and Democrats saying? Are they mentioning potential candidates who might try to go for Cruz’s Senate seat? 

Well, you know how it goes. Everybody wants to basically resign and run for president. That’s the dream scenario for a lot of Republicans out there because they’re ready to move and do some other things. What happens in Texas?

What we saw under the Rick Perry years and the Greg Abbott years now is that there’s no real movement until somebody leaves. That happened the last time with Kay Bailey Hutchison, because the thought was that Kay Bailey Hutchison will resign and it will create a domino effect. She didn’t, but her seat eventually came up and Ted Cruz ended up running for that.

That’s what people are waiting for this time: somebody to move to create a domino effect that will have other people seeking offices. Now, Ken Paxton has been A.G. for a long time now. He just won his third term. He’s looking for another move, perhaps governor or Senate, if that happens. You got Dan Crenshaw, the representative in Houston, looking for higher office. Most of the statewide folks are looking for other landing spots to continue their political career.

You listed three Republicans there. What about on the Democratic side? 

That’s fascinating as well. Remember in 2018, the last time Cruz ran for re-election, against Beto O’Rourke? 2.6% was the margin of victory for Cruz. So Democrats see Cruz as maybe someone they can beat, that’s not a stronger candidate, say, across the board as a John Cornyn, who could attract moderates and business Republicans. They see an opportunity there, even in Texas, because of what O’Rourke did – maybe they can go for him.

Colin Allred, the U.S. representative up here in Dallas, is considering a Senate run. He’s a business Democrat. So yes, Democrats are looking to see how Cruz polls, and they’ve been looking at it for a few years ever since that close defeat [of] Beto O’Rourke.

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Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."