In a surprise move, outspoken tea party congressman Steve Stockman has filed to challenge Texas Sen. John Cornyn in next March's GOP Senate primary. Texas Republican Party spokesman Spencer Yeldell confirmed multiple reports that Stockman had withdrawn his application to run for re-election to his House seat in order to run for the Senate instead. Stockman was elected to Congress in 2012 to a new district after previously serving one term from 1995 to 1997.
When the political world thinks of Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), attention quickly turns to his record of over-the-top extremism, his ongoing campaign-finance controversy, and his unfortunate "links to anti-government militia groups" in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.
But now we have a new way to think of the unhinged congressman: U.S. Senate candidate.
Note, the filing deadline for the primary was yesterday at 6 p.m., and Stockman filed the paperwork without warning with just 15 minutes to spare. In recent months, it appeared that Cornyn, the Senate Minority Whip, would steer clear of a serious challenger, but Stockman, his radicalism notwithstanding, is well known and enjoys a base of extremist support.
Stockman's first public comments about his Senate campaign were delivered to World Net Daily, a right-wing repository for strange conspiracy theories. "I don't know that I can beat him," he said, "but I am sure going to try."
In terms of the larger context, there are a few angles to keep an eye on. First, with both Cornyn and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell facing real primary opponents, the likelihood of bipartisan cooperation and compromise in the Senate in the coming months just got even more remote.
Second, it'll be interesting to see how allied Republican groups respond to this primary fight, since Cornyn is hardly a moderate. When a very conservative incumbent faces a hysterically conservative challenger, what will Heritage, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and FreedomWorks do?
Third, if Stockman somehow manages to win this primary, will he become the latest in the O'Donnell-Akin-Mourdock line of unelected Republicans to win a primary but lose the general election? It's certainly possible, though Texas is arguably a more reliable "red" state than places like Delaware, Missouri, Indiana, et al.
And finally, it'll be interesting to see if Stockman can parlay an "establishment vs. outsider" dynamic into real campaign resources, because on paper, the financial disadvantage appears insurmountable -- Stockman has about $32,000 in cash on hand, while Cornyn sits on a $7 million war chest.