Beto O'Rourke Wins Support of Houston Chronicle, Paper That Once Endorsed Ted Cruz but Now Calls Him 'Repellent'

In 2012, in line with its long history of supporting Republican candidates for office, the Houston Chronicle editorial board endorsed Republican Ted Cruz for the Senate. Now, after closely covering his first term and the rise of a popular Democratic challenger, the editorial staff broke with tradition and endorsed his rival, Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

The board wasn't shy in offering up its criticism of Cruz's "repellent personality" while praising O'Rourke's "eagerness to reach out to all Texans," making the Democrat one of the "most impressive candidates" the board has seen in years. It called Cruz the "junior senator from Texas in name only," saying the former 2016 presidential candidate exhibited "little interest in addressing the needs of his fellow Texans during his six years in office" because he always eyed a much larger prize: the presidency.

"He's been running for president since he took the oath of office—more likely since he picked up his class schedule as a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Houston's Second Baptist High School more than three decades ago," the board said.

Since 1932, the Houston-based paper's editorial board—which is separate from its newsroom that remains nonpartisan—has endorsed 14 GOP presidential candidates, compared to just seven Democratic candidates.

"For Cruz," the board said, "public office is a private quest; the needs of his constituents are secondary."

The Cruz campaign told Newsweek Friday afternoon it had no comment about the board's decision to endorse its opponent. The O'Rourke campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While O'Rourke has seen months of record fundraising for a total campaign intake of more than $60 million, nearly double that of Cruz, according to the Federal Election Commission, the Democrat continues to trail in the polls. The editorial staff acknowledged that O'Rourke had only been given a 20 percent chance of winning by the pollster and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver.

But it was more about what O'Rourke stands for and what Cruz stands against that appeared to drive the board's decision to not support Cruz his second time around.

The board said O'Rourke was running as an "unapologetic progressive," supporting comprehensive immigration reform, health care for all, legalizing marijuana, "sensible (and constitutional)" gun control, has improved the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and believes in free trade and global markets. The board also highlighted O'Rourke's opposition to Trump's border wall, which it called an "absurd and colossal waste."

"There's one more reason O'Rourke should represent Texas in the U.S. Senate," the board said. "He would help to serve as a check on a president who is a danger to the republic. Cruz is unwilling to take on that responsibility."

Much to the dislike of the board, it said Cruz "took the lead" in a 2013 federal government shutdown and cost taxpayers billions of dollars with his "ill-considered, self-serving stunt." The board also said Cruz's vote against disaster relief funding for Hurricane Sandy victims, the "bipartisan disdain" he has received in Congress, his "repellent personality" and his unwillingness to "take on [the] responsibility" of pushing back against some of Trump's dangerous and hurtful rhetoric played into its final decision.

"While the bloviations emanate from the arena next week, imagine how refreshing it would be to have a U.S. senator who not only knows the issues but respects the opposition, who takes firm positions but reaches out to those who disagree, who expects to make government work for Texas and the nation," the board said. "Beto O'Rourke, we believe, is that senator."