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Tea-Party Trouble for Stockman
Grassroots support hasn’t coalesced around Senator Cornyn’s primary challenger.

Steve Stockman

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Betsy Woodruff

But there’s a plot twist! Late on Tuesday, the Texas GOP announced that it was required to extend the filing deadline for Stockman’s seat because he announced so late that he wouldn’t run for reelection. By then, however, the damage was done: The proximity of Stockman’s filing for Senate and Norman’s filing for his House seat seemed too close to be anything but collusion, and a trust deficit was born. 

“For some people in this world, we still have character and honesty and we try to be sincere and tell the truth,” says Ray Myers, chairman of the Kaufman County Tea Party and director of Saddle Up Texas. “Lying and mistruth and misdirection in politics today is absolutely just getting out of control.”

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He tells me he won’t support Stockman, in large part because of what he believes is duplicity.

“I’m not real happy right now with Mr. Stockman,” he says, adding that his group has statewide tea-party connections. 

And Huls feels the same way. “Tea parties don’t only look for people who vote their way,” he says. “We look for men and women of character and principle, first and foremost, and the votes will come our way from that.”

He won’t support Cornyn or Stockman, he tells me. Instead, he plans to support Stovall.

“He is on his own, working as hard as he can,” he says of the dark horse’s dark horse. “We admire that kind of spirit, David versus Goliath activity.”

Not all tea-party leaders feel that way. Many of the activists I spoke with seemed uncertain about what to do next. 

Resa Clark, a tea-party activist from Tyler who was on Cruz’s finance committee, tells me she thinks Stockman could have had a chance in the primary if he’d announced a year before the election. But with just three months, she says she’s hesitant to invest in a race that looks so daunting. She’s frustrated with Cornyn, she adds, but she’s not persuaded Stockman’s odds of victory are high enough to justify the amount of work she would have to put in by March. 

“Do we do it to fight the fight?” she asks. 

She adds that it’s unfair to suggest Stockman has grassroots support locked up: She knows activists who consider themselves “to the right of the Right” and also support Cornyn. 

And that’s what’s fascinating about the Texas Senate primary: It’s easy to portray it as a simple Tea Party–versus–Establishment showdown, but the reality is much more complicated, much more problematic for Stockman, and much, much more personal.

— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.



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