(CNN) - Democrats haven't won a major statewide election in Texas in more than 20 years. But they hope that retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's announcement that he's running for the Senate in 2012 will break the Republican party's streak in what's considered a very solid red state.
Sanchez filed paperwork in San Antonio Wednesday to launch a Democratic bid for the open Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who announced in January that she would not run next year for a fifth term in office.
While he did mention his longtime service to his country in a written statement, Sanchez emphasized economic issues in his comments.
"Here in Texas, too many families are struggling to get ahead. Jobs are hard to find, our schools simply aren't good enough and increasing food and gas prices are breaking household budgets. We need to make sure small businesses that drive the economy can grow and prosper. Unfortunately, Washington is mostly focused on scoring partisan points and winning elections," said Sanchez.
National Democrats are optimistic that they can win in Texas. Last month Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, announced that the Lone Star state was one of the "Six in '12" states that Democrats were targeting in 2012, and added that Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.
A few days later, Democratic Party sources confirmed to CNN that the retired three-star general was expected to run for the Senate. At the time, Sanchez told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr that "I am humbled by all the speculation. I am still considering the possibilities."
Last month, a Democratic source told CNN that with his centrist, military background, "no one is going to call Sanchez a liberal." The source also pointed out that Sanchez, a Mexican-American who is a native of Rio Grande City, Texas, is well suited to "capture the surging Hispanic demographic" in the state, which could be more motivated to cast ballots with President Barack Obama on the ballot next year.
But national Republicans are confident the seat will stay in party hands.
"Our confidence in this race comes down to the simple fact that Texans do not support Barack Obama's liberal, tax-and-spend agenda and whoever the Democratic nominee ultimately is, that individual will be campaigning side-by-side at the top of the ticket next year with President Obama, " says National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brian Walsh, in a statement. "So we'll leave it to national Democrats to crow about their latest hand-picked candidate because as any observer of Texas politics knows, we've heard it all before and we have no doubt this seat will remain in Republican hands."
Sanchez does come with some potential baggage. He was the top U.S. military commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison happened on his watch. While Sanchez emphasized that he had no knowledge of the actions at the prison, the controversy tainted him and effectively prevented any chance at promotion. Sanchez retired from the Army in 2006.
In his statement, Sanchez said he will make a more formal announcement in the coming weeks.
A number of big-name Republicans are running for the seat. Among them is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is considered by many to be the favorite for the GOP nomination as well as the general election. Among others making bids are former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, who is endorsed by former President George H.W. Bush, Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Railroad Commission member Michael Williams, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Ted Cruz, former solicitor general of Texas.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report handicaps the Texas race right now as "Likely Republican" with the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report characterizing the contest as "Currently Safe Republican."
Sanchez's move is the second major recruiting announcement this week for Senate Democrats. Monday Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced a bid for the Senate seat held by Richard Lugar. The six-term Republican senator is running for re-election next year, but is facing a primary challenge from a more conservative candidate, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who announced his bid on February 22.
Democrats currently have a 53-47 majority in the Senate. They are defending 23 seats (21 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party) next year, with the GOP defending 10 seats.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
No. Because of 2 words that are forever hung around his head. ABU GHARIB
He doesn't need this intangible "firepower" you talk about. He has facts on his side.
For example, the Feds has already picked up 3/4 of the tab for the recent wild fires.
texans seem to like their big guns to go along with their big empty heads. perry hasn't made a lot of friends since he told BIG government thanks for no thanks (remind you of anyone further north also lying?) then had to come crawling back to ask for federal aid which is not on the list of natural disasters.
I hope the general call fill those big shoes in texas. They need somebody who has seen it all and can help them instead of some rich guy whose idea of a good time is golfing (imagine that)
Sooo... the guy who was in command during the Abu Ghraib fiasco is a Democrat and wants to run for the Senate in Texas??!! Sorry general, wrong state to expect success. Maybe you should move to NY or California where their standards are MUCH lower?
He is a military man, but his past could be an issue. The question is would the GOP bring that up since it would reflect poorly on them?
Oh man... good luck to him, but Texas seems second only to Arizona for rightwingnuttery.
this is a very, very ,long shot... the democrats want him because he is spanish....abu ghraib will be his albotras....plus obama is not popular in texas...
The GOP can bluster all it wants. Any thinking person knows the truth:
1.) In "patriotic" flag waving Texas, nobody wants to run against a former General. The GOP has invest decades in "support the troops" rhetoric. They have held fast to the position that the primary background that the country's leaders need to have is to have been an officer in the military. Well, turns out that's the Democrat in this race. Might also be the Democrat in Arkansas if Wes Clark runs there.
2.) Given the number of Latino US citizens in Texas – on top of the Democrats – Gen. Sanchez will be even more formidable. The GOP will be spending a lot of money trying to hold a Senate seat with Barack Obama on the ticket with Sanchez.
3.) Texans are tired and embarass by the current standard bearers like Gov. Rick Perry. With all the transplants to Texas from other parts of the country, the voice of Indepedents is far more important than those diehard GOP voters that are unable to listen to reason.
4.) Lastly, in execuition-happy Texas, anyone that is rumored to have abused prisoners will probably gets a political bump.
Retired Lt. General Sanchez should respond immediately to any dirty political swift boating lies spread by groups supporting the GOP candidate. As seen in the past, GOP dirty tricksters have no shame dragging a war veteran's reputation through the mud.
defeat these texan idiots, because the Texan Idiot messed this nation...o.k, good luck....
Good luck General. We need you to continue to serve country a while longer.
and the Dems here STILL won't. Outside of the metro areas here it is a PURE RED STATE and the GOPers here do come out and vote. Plus with the last name of Sanchez they'll probably think he's an illegal alien. Sorry but that's the way a lot of these Texans think, just look who the governor and some of the congressmen are that come from this place.
Good luck Grneral. We need you to serve "OUR" country for a while longer.
"Another first generation American with nothing better to do with his life than push into politics like 'Bobby' Jindal and Barack Husein Obama. Nice going America."
Awesome. Thank you. That is precisely the kind of sentiment we want attached to conservatives/GOPers/Teatrolls. If you only knew what kind of damage it does to you guys with the portion of the public that is reasonable, rational and not filled with anger, fear and hate. Please please please continue to be oblivious.
BTW, nothing better to do? You mean other than patriotically serving in our military for his entire life/career and doing so with such distinction that he earned the highly honorable rank of a 3 Star General? Did you know that federal law limits it to 302 generals total on active duty at any one time and that only about 50+/- have 3 or more stars? Yeah, clearly he's a deadbeat lazy "first generation American" just looking for an easy way to score some gringo power and cash, eh amigo?
We need you to serve "OUR" country for a while longer.
I should have known that Sanchez was a democrat because he was a failed general.
Go for it Genereal! You da man!
I live in AZ but...Where can I send my check DIRECTLY to the General's campaign?
I won't send it to the DNC, DSCC or the DHCC until I start seeing some ads on the big 4 NATIONAL prime time TV networks gobsmackin' the lying, distorted and disengenuous BS ads against unions, women and taxing millionaires and billionaires that the right wing secret money Astroturf groups are putting up all the time...
Yeah, he's great but......"Sanchez does come with some potential baggage. He was the top U.S. military commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison happened on his watch. While Sanchez emphasized that he had no knowledge of the actions at the prison, the controversy tainted him and effectively prevented any chance at promotion. Sanchez retired from the Army in 2006" No bias here. If this was a conservative candidate that would have been the lead paragraph.
Racism is still alive in America. If Ricardo Sanchez is elected for senate, he will find ways and means to defend illegals since most of the illegals are Latinos. See what Collin Powel did – as a Republican, he voted for Obama during last election only because Obama is black , the same race as Powel
Tax and spend liberals, blah, blah, blah. What a bunch of mothereffing liars. Taxes are at the lowest point in 60 years, and spending levels are lower than the Bush years. I wish the ignorant assclowns that support the GOP would just go and eat some bullets. And why is"Liberal" a bad word? "Conservative" should make you want to spit after saying it.
I wouldn't be surprised if dead horses beat these right-wing nut jobs come 2010. In Chicago we know about "special" elections.