Trouble in Texas: Cornyn Draws a Primary Challenger

Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, draws a last-minute Tea Party challenger

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Evan Vucci / AP

Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, second from right, participates in a mock swearing-in ceremony with Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, for the 113th Congress in Washington, Jan. 3, 2013.

John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, hoped he could make it through the primary season without drawing a challenger. Late Monday, with just 15 minutes to go before the filing deadline, those hopes were dashed when Rep. Steve Stockman, a firebrand conservative from outside Houston withdrew his papers to run for reelection in Congress and filed to challenge Cornyn instead.

Stockman previously served in Congress in 1994, where he was best known for criticizing the government for “executing” members of the Branch Davidians outside Waco. Since his return to Capitol Hill this year, he’s made waves calling for President Barack Obama’s impeachment and bringing Ted Nugent as his guest to the State of the Union. On Tuesday he launched a campaign Twitter feed, billed as the “Official campaign account of the most conservative Congressman in Texas! 100% lifetime NRA, GOA, NAGR, Right to Life rating.”

Stockman has an uphill battle ahead of him. The primary is in the first week of March and Cornyn has raised more than $10 million to defend his seat. By comparison Stockman has raised a total of just $250,000 over his entire career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That said, Ted Cruz won a surprising upstart primary for his Texas Senate seat in 2012, beating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the establishment candidate who had the endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry this time around has already endorsed Cornyn. Notably, Cruz has not endorsed Cornyn, even though Cruz was named vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate. Cornyn led the NRSC in 2010 and 2012.

(MORE: 2014 GOP primary war widens)

Outside groups have also held off endorsing, and many are now giving Stockman the once over.  “We haven’t decided yet whether we will endorse anyone in this race, but we’re going to watch it closely,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Texas deserves two conservative fighters in the Senate, not just one. John Cornyn has voted to increase the debt, raise taxes, bail out Wall Street banks, and fund Obamacare. He’s part of the problem in Washington and Texas Republicans deserve better.”

After Tea Party primaries wrecked GOP plans to take back the Senate in 2010 and 2012, Republican leaders this cycle swore the party would show more unity and less chaos. And yet Cornyn now joins Senate Minority Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Mississippi’s Thad Cochran, Wyoming’s Mike Enzi, and maybe still South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Kansas’s Pat Roberts, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee in facing aggressive primary fights next year.