The Texas candidate filing period closed yesterday, and yielded a stunning political surprise.
Foregoing what would be an easy re-election to a second term in his 36th Congressional District, Rep. Steve Stockman filed papers to instead launch a Republican senatorial primary challenge against Sen. John Cornyn.
Tea Party conservatives had been trying to recruit an opponent for the senator ever since he opposed fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R) informal government shutdown filibuster back in October. Stockman can now expect their backing, a similar coalition that helped Cruz overcome favored Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican nomination process, but is hopelessly behind in financial resources. The senator commands over $7 million in his campaign account, while Rep. Stockman has only $32,000.
Clearly the congressman will have to raise substantial money, something he has never done well, in order to compete statewide. He can, however, count on a great deal of earned media and a network of the state’s most conservative voters. In his successful race for the newly created 36th District in 2012, Stockman spent only a total of $368,000 through the Republican primary, run-off, and general elections, one of the lowest open seat expenditure amounts for a successful candidate in the country.
It’s clear, however, that Sen. Cornyn is damaged with the Republican base from his decision to so publicly oppose the Cruz filibuster. In a state that ranks among the lowest in primary participation as a percentage of registered voters, his overwhelming financial advantage may not carry as much punch as in other places. In fact, Dewhurst was in similar position at the beginning of his campaign against Cruz and spent as if he were educating the entire pool of registered voters instead of those most likely to vote. The lieutenant governor expended just under $34 million in the 2012 Republican primary and run-off versus just over $3 million for the victorious Cruz.
In the ’12 primary election, Dewhurst placed first with 45 percent of the vote as opposed his challenger’s 34 percent. Over 1.4 million votes were cast. In the run-off, Cruz defeated the lieutenant governor by a whopping 57-43 percent from a voting universe of 1.1 million individuals.
Stockman revealed his campaign strategy in his announcement statements. According to a WND Internet news report, the entity that the congressman exclusively told of his new plans, Stockman said “we are extremely disappointed in the way he treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined (Sen.) Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”
He further said, “and now, it looks like Cruz was right and Cornyn was wrong. He (Cornyn) sided with the president, essentially, in making sure Obamacare became law while Cruz did everything possible to stop it.”
The Stockman move appears to have literally caught everyone off guard. It will now be interesting to see how Sen. Cornyn responds. He will undoubtedly take this race seriously, so we will have a noteworthy early race next year. The Texas primary is March 4. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, the top two finishers will then face each other in a May 27th secondary election.