The Corner

Tea-Party Activists Push David Barton to Primary Cornyn

David Barton, an Evangelical Christian historian who recently made headlines for a controversial history of Thomas Jefferson, is seriously considering primarying Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas), per multiple sources. Rick Green, one of Barton’s closest advisers, tells National Review Online the following in an e-mail:

More than 1,000 (zero exaggeration, that is an actual number) tea party and republican party leaders have asked David Barton to run. Polling says Sen. Cornyn is vulnerable and that’s why he is running ads right now. Like America’s Founding Fathers, David Barton will not “seek” this office, but if the people of Texas speak loud enough in the next few days, he could most certainly be drafted in by the voters.

Another Republican consultant in Austin familiar with Barton’s thinking elaborates on that. “The conservatives are putting in a significant effort to get him into the race, and this is not a drill — he might actually do it,” the consultant tells me. “I think David is probably mulling the race because he’s getting pushed really hard to mull the race. If people weren’t really pushing him hard, I don’t think he would be considering it. He probably fits the one profile which would be really threatening to Cornyn.”

And JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Texas-based Grassroots America We The People, says that a number of tea-party leaders are slated to have a conference call with Barton in the next few days to discuss his senatorial prospects. “We need a Constitutional conservative in that seat,” she says. “We believe that Senator Cornyn has become part of the establishment and we don’t believe that his priorities reflect the priorities of the people of Texas any longer.”

Cornyn drew ire from some state tea-party activists this summer when he took his name off a letter from Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) calling for his Senate colleagues to oppose any continuing resolution that funded the Affordable Care Act. Other conservative activists and outside groups have rallied behind the senator, Texas Right to Life endorsed him, and he has A+ and A ratings from Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association, respectively. And, per his Facebook page, he met with conservatives and tea-party supporters in the Dallas County North Republican Club just last week.

Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, says that grassroots activists in her circles have quickly latched onto the idea of a Barton campaign because they “so desperately” want someone to replace Cornyn. “We trust him,” she says of Barton. “We trust him to be one of us.”

She adds that he’s “extremely educated and well-spoken on the Constitution, and the Founding Fathers, and what’s supposed to be happening in America, how things are supposed to be run.” 

And a conservative member of the Texas state house who preferred to remain anonymous tells me he’s been getting numerous calls from tea-party activists trying to gauge the level of support Barton would have if he challenged the incumbent.

In 2005, Time magazine put Barton on their list of the 25 most influential Evangelicals. He is well-connected statewide, both with donors and grassroots activists. Barton’s most recent book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, drew harsh criticism from academics, Evangelical and otherwise. The book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, stopped publishing the book because, per World magazine, it said it “lost confidence in the book’s details.” Barton has guest-hosted Glenn Beck’s The Blaze and has drawn criticism for his arguments about the separation of church and state.


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