Lawmakers on right aren't flocking to help Stockman unseat Cornyn
By TODD J. GILLMAN and NICK SWARTSELL
Published: 11 December 2013 11:17 PM
Updated: 12 December 2013 09:02 AM
WASHINGTON — Toppling a two-term senator is never easy. For Rep. Steve Stockman, it doesn’t look as though he’ll get much help from congressional colleagues in his bid to replace Sen. John Cornyn.
“I couldn’t pick Steve out of a lineup,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., a top tea partier, said Wednesday.
“Maybe all he can tolerate is one term,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, former head of the Republican Study Committee, an influential conservative bloc to which Stockman also belongs. “He served one term, then left. Now he’s served one term, and he’s leaving.”
The lines got big guffaws at a news conference with top House conservatives. For Stockman — who launched a surprise Senate campaign Monday night — it’s no laughing matter that after 11 months in office, he’s barely known and little regarded even among his ideological peers.
With just $32,000 in his campaign account, the Friendswood Republican could get a huge boost if fellow Texas lawmakers rallied to his cause. So far, that hasn’t happened.
“I was surprised and shocked that he’s decided to take on someone who I think is a really great senator for our state,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland. “I don’t see Stockman being particularly competitive.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler — whom some tea party activists had urged to challenge Cornyn — said Wednesday that he won’t endorse anyone in the primary.
“I like him,” Gohmert said of Stockman. “But I’m not endorsing him in this race.”
Cornyn dismissed Stockman as no more formidable than the half-dozen other candidates on the March 4 ballot.
The field includes an immigration lawyer, a boat dealer, a former oilfield worker, and just one challenger who has run statewide — a Fort Worth business owner who ran eighth in last year’s nine-way Senate primary.
“While Mr. Stockman is a fascinating person, there’s no guarantee that he’s actually going to be competitive in the primary, so I’m going to be paying equal attention to all my primary opponents,” Cornyn said.
He said Stockman hasn’t made much of an impression. “I have not had much interaction with him, so I really don’t have an opinion,” said Cornyn. “The only thing I know is what I read in the newspapers.”
Stockman aides haven’t responded to interview requests.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., another conservative stalwart, said Stockman has made a contribution in his short time back in office, bringing “a much longer-term perspective” on budget fights, since he’s lived through them before.
Texas Republicans in Congress were surprised when Stockman filed for the Senate seat Monday night, 15 minutes before the deadline. But they were either sticking with Cornyn or declining to take sides.
“If you’re going to play, play big, and Steve’s playing big,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, a tea party Republican from Corpus Christi. “The voters in Texas will have the opportunity to sort it out.”
Other Texas lawmakers trod carefully, too.
“Most of us don’t want to get into the primary and make a choice. Steve has his work cut out for him,” said Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall. “It should be a tough race. But … he’s a good fellow, a good guy. That’s all you have to be to run.”
Stockman has attacked Cornyn as “liberal,” hoping to tap disgruntlement among tea party activists who would prefer a more confrontational approach.
“Sometimes there is a perception about people based on their temperament or the style with which they operate,” Cornyn said, noting that he was a judge for 13 years. “I’m going to be myself. We’re going to tell the story and I expect to be successful.”