Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat, announces his retirement

Rodríguez, who was first elected in 2010 to represent Senate District 29, said he will retire from the Senate at the end of this term in January 2021.

State Sen. José Rodríguez's district covers El Paso, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties.
State Sen. José Rodríguez's district covers El Paso, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties.  Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

State Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat, announced Friday that he will not seek reelection to the upper chamber in 2020.

Rodriguez informed El Paso colleagues of his decision in a text late Thursday night that was obtained by The Texas Tribune. He made the announcement official at his district office.

"I started my tenure in the Senate with one of the worst budgets in the state’s modern history," Rodríguez said in a written announcement on his retirement. "Fortunately, my last session was one where state leaders finally gave long overdue attention to our public schools."

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Rodríguez was first elected in 2010 to represent Senate District 29. The district, which hugs the Texas-Mexico border, is historically considered Democratic; it covers El Paso, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties.

The senator's retirement announcement comes a day after the Senate Democratic Caucus announced that Rodríguez would step down as chair at the end of the year. State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, will replace him at the post.

One potential successor to Rodríguez is state Rep. César Blanco, a fellow El Paso Democrat who serves as chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee. After Rodriguez's announcement, Blanco told the Tribune he had "been on the phone all day" receiving encouragement to run for the seat. He said he would take the next few days to hear out those who want him to run.

On Friday evening, the Latino Victory Fund, a national political group, announced a digital draft campaign urging Blanco to run, launching the website RunCesarRun.org.

"The 29th is a majority-Latino district, and its community needs a Latino candidate who reflects the district’s population and who understands first-hand the issues that matter to the Latino community," Mayra Macías, Latino Victory Fund's executive director, said in a statement. "César is a formidable legislator with a track record of getting things done for the people he represents — he’ll hit the ground running on day one."

If Blanco runs to succeed Rodríguez, a recently departed House member may vie for Blanco's House seat. Ex-Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who resigned in January due to health reasons, told the Tribune on Friday morning that he was taking time to "ponder things" about a potential bid to return to the Legislature.

"The answer is not definitely no," Pickett said, "and it's not positively yes."

Alex Samuels contributed reporting.

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