Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, who has abandoned a safe re-election bid to file a challenge to fellow Republican Sen. John Cornyn, told Newsmax that there is a feeling in the state that the incumbent senator "has lost his connection with Texas."
"That's why I feel I can defeat Sen. Cornyn," Stockman said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax following his arrival in Washington Tuesday.
Stockman, 57, said he was motivated primarily by Cornyn's harsh words for fellow Texan, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, over the government shutdown battle in October.
Cornyn "was trying to undermine Ted Cruz during his fight to stop Obamacare and it turns out everything Ted warned about Obamacare being a 'train wreck' was right," said Stockman, who, like Cruz, is a favorite of the tea party.
The Houston-area lawmaker added that "there is anger across our state over what Sen. Cornyn tried to do to Sen. Cruz and there is a feeling he has lost his connection with Texas. That's why I feel I can defeat Sen. Cornyn."
Cornyn has been critical of Cruz for leading the effort to shut down the federal government as a way of delaying the implementation of Obamacare, telling Texas Monthly
recently that "the shutdown did not help our cause."
Stockman said that he would raise other issues against the two-term senator, who holds the No. 2 position of whip in the Senate Republican hierarchy.
Stockman noted that Cornyn "voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out Wall Street firms and I would have opposed that. And he voted to confirm Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. I would have never, ever voted to do that."
Six other Republicans are competing in the Senate race along with Stockman and Cornyn. Should no candidate win a majority in the primary in March, the two top vote-getters will meet in a subsequent run-off.
In the Senate primary last year, Cruz trailed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst but then won the run-off handily. There is no party registration in Texas and voters choose which primary they wish to participate in.
Since Texas elected John Tower as its first Republican senator since Reconstruction back in 1961, no GOP senator from the Lone Star State has ever been challenged in a primary.
The last time a sitting senator from Texas faced a challenge within his own party was in 1970, when two-term liberal Sen. Ralph Yarborough faced Lloyd Bentsen in the Democratic primary. Running sharply to Yarborough's right, businessman and former Rep. Bentsen won the primary and went on to defeat Republican George H.W. Bush in November.
At first glance, it would seem that Stockman's task is Herculean. Cornyn has more than $7 million in his campaign kitty and, on most issues, has compiled a conservative voting record.
The Club for Growth on Tuesday, which in the past launched independent expenditures on behalf of several winning conservative Senate hopefuls, announced it would not back Stockman over Cornyn.
"While Congressman Stockman has a pro-economic growth record, so does Sen. Cornyn, as witnessed by his 87 percent lifetime Club for Growth score," President Chris Chocola told reporters, "so we do not expect to be involved in the Texas Senate race."
Acknowledging difficulties he faced in raising money and getting support, Stockman told Newsmax "there are several groups that can launch independent expenditures that could be very supportive. Under the election law, I cannot be in touch with them or coordinate efforts."
The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, was supportive of Cruz and several other winning conservatives for the Senate and hinted that it might back Stockman over Cornyn. In addition, the Madison Project, which is supported by the home school movement, could easily be in the insurgent's corner.
In a colorful life in which he has been homeless, an accountant, missionary, conservative activist and won and lost races for Congress in different districts, Steve Stockman has always been a risk-taker. Now, as he runs for the Senate and leaves a safe U.S. House seat that he won 16 years after being unseated from the House after one term, Stockman is taking his biggest risk of all.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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