Tea party favorite challenges Cornyn in last-minute 2014 filing

Maria Recio

In a last minute surprise move, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, filed a challenge to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, just minutes before Monday's deadline for Texas' 2014 federal elections.

Stockman, a conservative favorite of the tea party, was elected last year after having served one term in the mid-1990s. Cornyn, the Senate minority whip, is running for his third term. He has been fending off criticism from the right, especially after failing to back Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in his moves to force a showdown over Obamacare and the federal budget. Cruz, a tea party star who won the seat in his first run for elective office, has refused to endorse Cornyn. It is not clear if he will support Stockman, who joined six other GOP challengers to Cornyn for the March 4 primary. Cruz is in South Africa for the memorial service for iconic apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela.

Cornyn campaign manager Brendan Steinhauser said in a statement that "Sen. Cornyn looks forward to discussing his conservative record with Texans."

Stockman made waves earlier this year by inviting rocker Ted Nugent, an outspoken gun advocate, to the State of the Union address, where many Newtown, Conn. families, affected by the shootings, were the marquee guests.

Cornyn has a war chest of $7 million and got a boost this morning from the conservative Club for Growth, which said it will stay out of the race.

“While Congressman Stockman has a pro-economic growth record, so does Senator Cornyn, as witnessed by his 87% lifetime Club for Growth score,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

“Our PAC evaluates three factors when looking at races that involve incumbents: 1) the strength of the incumbent’s record; 2) the degree of difference between the incumbent and the challenger on economic issues; and 3) the viability of the challenger. None of those factors weigh against Senator Cornyn, so we do not expect to be involved in the Texas Senate race.”

By Maria Recio
McClatchy Washington Bureau