After staying out of 2018 race to unseat Hurd, O'Rourke says he'll "very likely support" nominee this time

Texas Tribune News

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, defeated a Democratic challenger in 2018. Many Democrats were angry that Texan Beto O'Rourke, running for U.S. Senate at the time, didn't back Hurd's rival.
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, defeated a Democratic challenger in 2018. Many Democrats were angry that Texan Beto O’Rourke, running for U.S. Senate at the time, didn’t back Hurd’s rival.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said Wednesday he will “very likely support” the 2020 Democratic nominee against Republican friend U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, whose race O’Rourke stayed out of last year to the consternation of some Democrats.

After going on a road trip with Hurd in 2017 that captured national attention, O’Rourke, then an El Paso congressman, took a vow of neutrality in Democratic efforts to take out Hurd, saying it was essential to preserving a productive bipartisanship relationship. The eventual Democratic nominee, Gina Ortiz Jones, ended up losing to Hurd by less than a percentage point in his 23rd Congressional District.

Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, recently launched her long-anticipated second bid against Hurd, reviving questions about whether O’Rourke would get involved in what is regularly the state’s most competitive congressional battle.

“I’m a big fan of Gina,” O’Rourke said in a CBS News interview Wednesday. “She may have other competition, so I don’t want to put my thumb on the scale in that intra-party race, but should she be the nominee, I will be supporting her.”

Reminded of his neutrality in the 2018 election, O’Rourke added: “We need to maintain the majority — increase it if we can — in the House of Representatives. It’s a little bit of a different scenario for me now. I’m no longer a member of the House. I no longer have a day-to-day working relationship with colleagues and friends” such as Hurd.

Jones, who launched her 2020 campaign last month, is an early frontrunner in the primary this time after having to make it through a drawn-out nominating contest in 2018. In recent days, she has unveiled endorsements from just about every Democratic state legislator in the 23rd District as well as members of Congress in the vicinity.