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Joe Biden Ramps Up Texas Campaign, Naming State Director

Michael Stravato
The Texas Tribune
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the National Education Association presidential forum in Houston in July. Biden served as vice president under former President Obama.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is ramping up his campaign in Texas, naming a state director while adding another endorsement from a state senator.

The former vice president’s Texas state director will be Dallas-based Democratic strategist Jane Hamilton, the Biden campaign told The Texas Tribune. At the same time, the campaign announced it has received the endorsement of state Sen.Beverly Powell of Burleson.

Biden is the second non-Texan primary candidate to announce a state director here, where he regularly tops primary polls. Hamilton is a seasoned operative whose experience includes serving as campaign manager and chief of staff to U.S. Rep.Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, who endorsed Biden on Thursday.

“Joe Biden knows that Democrats can win in the battleground states like Texas — and he knows how to do it,” Hamilton said in a statement. “That’s why I am excited to join Vice President Biden’s team today and help him turn Texas blue in 2020.”

While the state has been trending blue, a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune pollfound Democrats still have their work cut out for them, with none of their presidential candidates beating President Donald Trump in Texas if the election were held this fall. Biden trailed Trump by 7 percentage points.

Powell, a former Burleson ISD trustee, was elected to the Senate last year, unseating a Republican, Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville. In backing Biden, Powell joins another North Texas Democrat who flipped a Senate seat last year, Sen.Nathan Johnson of Dallas.

“I have really been a great supporter of Biden's all along, and I just felt like it’s time,” Powell said in an interview. “My passion is for public education, and I have a clear understanding that Biden and I are like-minded with regards to addressing the needs of public educators.”

Powell added that she was encouraged by Biden’s education plan, the first major policy announcement of his campaign that heunveiled during his inaugural trip to Texas in May as a 2020 contender.

Biden’s latest inroads in Texas come as it looks less likely than ever that the state will have one of its own still running by the time of the March 3 primary.Beto O’Rourkedropped out of the race earlier this month, whileJulián Castro isshedding staff and on the verge of being cut from the next debate as he narrows his focus to just three states, including Texas.

Powell said she holds Castro and O’Rourke in high regard and believes they have “brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the Democratic Party and ... to this race.”

“I just believe in this day and in this time, with the problems associated with the nation right now, that we need that strong leadership from a proven leader, one who’s been there, one who’s proven he can get the job done and who can face down President Trump in the upcoming election cycle,” Powell said.

Only one other non-Texan primary candidate, Elizabeth Warren, has named a Texas state director, which the U.S. senator from Massachusettsdid in October. O’Rourke had one when he was running, while Castro’s campaign is looking to hire one as it zeroes in on Texas.

Some campaigns continue to have regional staffers, based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on a group of states including Texas.

Powell is the third state lawmaker to announce his or her support for Biden, following Johnson and Rep.Victoria Neave of Dallas. At the congressional level, Biden has the most endorsements in the Texas delegation: Veasey as well as Reps.Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas,Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen andFilemon Vela of Brownsville.

Biden’s campaign announced Thursday that he will next visit Texas on Dec. 13, with more details to come. It will be his first time back in the state after making a three-day swing through in September that centered on the third primary debate in Houston.

Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.