The Tea Party revolution in Texas has led several unknown, outsider candidates to election victory over the last few years, like Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz. Many expected the state’s senior senator, John Cornyn, to face a serious Tea Party challenge in the March primary. But with less than two months to go, it doesn’t look like there’s much of a challenge for the two-term senator.
There are seven people running against John Cornyn in the Republican primary. So it’s not like nobody wants him out of office. But it wasn’t until the very last day before the December filing deadline that anyone with any kind of political clout threw their name in the ring. That’s when Congressman Steve Stockman signed up to be the Tea Party champion to take on Cornyn.
Instantly, political journalists in Texas and across the country got interested in the race.
“It’s interesting, but not because it’s a race," says Dallas Morning News senior political writer Wayne Slater.
Slater thinks the dynamics of the race fit a larger theme that’s happening all over the country: Can an insurgent Tea Party candidate defeat an establishment Republican?
“Stockman’s entry seems to reinforce that story line. The problem for Stockman is he doesn’t have any money, and he’s frankly not very much of a candidate in the political, traditional sense," says Slater.
Stockman is a two-time congressman. He held office for one term in the mid 90’s, and then was elected again in 2012 to represent parts of East Texas. He’s gained notoriety this time around for several politically-charged quotes, including one tweet that showed him working on a gun with what he called the best lubricant around – liberal tears.
“I’m not the bizarre one," Stockman said at a district event this past summer, "they always say, 'you’re extreme you’re bizarre.' No, stop having them intimidate you. Stand up for our Constitution. Fight for the constitution. Don’t back down.”
But Stockman has also run into trouble over how he spends campaign money and has few donations to spend on this campaign. He’s barely campaigned at all since he announced his candidacy. And according to the Associated Press he’s missed 17 straight House votes since January 9th.
Maybe because of those troubles, and the apparent inability of Stockman to mount a serious run, Senator Cornyn has said little about him or his other opponents. Here’s Cornyn commenting on Stockman back in December.
“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 of my primary opponents," Cornyn said.
Cornyn is expected to easily win the March 4th GOP primary. But the Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater thinks Democrats would be making a mistake if they thought Stockman’s expected poor showing is a sign of weakening Tea Party strength in Texas.
“This is an overreach by some Tea Party activists, and Steve Stockman, who thought that they could leverage the kind of Tea Party animus against the establishment in the Republican Party to their favor. But it won’t work," says Slater. "Many Tea Party voters, conservative Texas Republican voters are happy with John Cornyn. And Stockman is seen, even in those corners, more as an irritant rather than as something for the future."
A report by the Wall Street Journal appeared to clarify that Stockman’s absence in Washington is because he’s on a Congressional trip to Egypt. But staffers could not or would not confirm the trip.
Stockman only answered inquiries with a cryptic tweet:
Where am I? Find out Monday...
— Rep. Steve Stockman (@StockmanSenate) January 24, 2014