At a San Antonio restaurant Sunday, Martinez Fischer, a veteran member of the Texas House, announced he would challenge Menéndez, the incumbent and himself a former longtime House member, in the March primary. In their previous matchup, Menéndez beat Martinez Fischer in a February special election runoff to succeed state Sen. Leticia Van Putte, who quit to run for San Antonio mayor.
Menéndez, a title company executive, won by almost 20 points even though Martinez Fischer was the frontrunner heading into the runoff. A trial lawyer known on the House floor for his combative personality and command of parliamentary procedure, Martinez Fischer faced an onslaught of attacks from Republican groups attempting to rally conservative voters behind the more moderate Menéndez in the weeks leading up to voting day.
Martinez Fischer's supporters have argued that his defeat was the result of low turnout and Republican crossover voters — factors that shouldn't come into play during the upcoming race, a March primary in a presidential year. But Menéndez now has the advantage of incumbent status, and the donors Martinez Fischer needs to court to fund his challenge may be reluctant to antagonize a sitting senator.
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In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News earlier this week, Menéndez said he had not given much thought to whether he would have a primary opponent.
“I just go to work every day and try to represent my constituents. Anyone can run and the voters get to decide,” he said.