Texas Primary Primer: For John Cornyn, A Stockman Surprise -- And How Other Races Are Shaping Up
Tea party activists have been gunning for Sen. John Cornyn. But even they were surprised when Steve Stockman, a Republican Congressman from the Houston suburb of Friendswood, filed on the last possible day to run against Cornyn in the March Republican primary.
Who Is Steve Stockman?
He was elected in 2012 with tea party support to represent the newly drawn U.S. House District 36 seat. Ted Cruz is a hero to him.
Stockman, 57, was elected to the U.S. House in 1994, but lost his bid for reelection two years later. He is a staunch Second Amendment proponent known for saying some eccentric things, including his allegation that the Clinton administration in 1993 raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco to justify a ban on assault weapons.
Why Tea Party Activists Are Angry With Cornyn
Tea party organizer JoAnn Fleming with Grassroots America says Cornyn has become too much a part of the Washington establishment.
“He seems to have lost his footing with constituents and seems to be more protective of the (GOP) party," Fleming told KERA. "He voted for TARP. He voted for some of these big bailouts. And government just can’t go around bailing out everybody."
What tea party members want is another Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate. But Stockman doesn’t have Cruz’s resume or his money. Stockman has about $32,000 in his campaign fund, while Cornyn has $7 million. And, despite criticism from tea party members, Cornyn has built a solid base of support among many Texas conservatives.
Other Races: Texas Primary Races Affecting State Government
But there are competitive Republican primaries for lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and agriculture commissioner:
- The lieutenant governor's race is being closely watched because it’s the position that controls the Texas Senate. Incumbent David Dewhurst lost his race for the U.S. Senate last year against Ted Cruz, then decided he wanted to remain lieutenant governor. Dewhurst faces three experienced statewide elected officials: Sen. Dan Patrick from Houston; Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson; and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. There’s likely to be a runoff between the top two.
- Democrats also have a competitive race for agriculture commissioner that includes Richard “Kinky” Friedman. The entertainer ran unsuccessfully for governor as independent in 2006, and for agriculture commissioner as a Democrat in 2010.
For Republicans, A Game Of Musical Chairs
What’s happened in the Republican Party is really like a game of musical chairs.
When Gov. Rick Perry and Comptroller Susan Combs decided not to run for reelection, and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst looked vulnerable, other elected Republicans who’ve been waiting to move up began filing for those coveted seats. Then House and Senate seats opened up.
In the end, if Republicans stay in control of statewide offices, most of Texas’ top officials will change, but they’ll be familiar faces and state government’s current philosophy on issues like healthcare, environmental regulation and tax policy will pretty much stay the same.
A Pivotal Legislative Race
The success of some future legislation may depend on what happens in Senate District 10, the Fort Worth seat Democrat Wendy Davis is giving up to run for governor.
Five Republicans and three Democrats have filed for that seat. If a Republican wins the seat, the GOP will be within one vote of blocking any Democratic attempt to prevent partisan legislation from coming to the floor.
SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says it would be easy for Republicans to peel off one Democratic vote and push through party issues.
“If Republicans pick up the Wendy Davis seat, that will make them almost invulnerable in their control of the Senate -- and the Texas House is already under close Republican control," Jillson told KERA. "So that would fast-track a lot of Republican legislation into a very conservative governor’s office who would certainly sign them."
The Wild Card? Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis is the wild card. Texas is still a red state and she’s a long shot. But if she's elected governor, then she could veto legislation passed by Republicans. That’s part of what makes the race for governor a fascinating battle to watch.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the San Antonio Democrat running unopposed in her party for lieutenant governor, may join Davis on the campaign trail. She’s a sassy campaigner who will aggressively challenge her GOP opponent in the fall.
Stay up to date on election news on KERA's Elections page.