The Corner

Texas Tea Partiers Gunning For Gohmert to Primary Cornyn

Louie Gohmert for Senate? That’s what a number of Texas tea-party activists are hoping for. They’re not happy with Senator John Cornyn, and Katrina Pierson, who serves on the Texas Tea Party Caucus Advisory Board, tells me she’s heard from a number of activists pushing for the outspoken East Texas congressman to challenge the senator.

And JoAnn Fleming, the executive director of East Texas–based Grassroots America We The People, says she’s hearing the same thing. She knows Gohmert personally and says she’s had numerous activists tell her she should ask the congressman to run.

“I’ve had people ask me to ask him,” she says. “That hasn’t diminished.”

Pierson and Fleming both told me that the grassroots activists they’re hearing from have numerous concerns with Cornyn’s record, but they’re especially frustrated that he withdrew support for Senator Mike Lee’s efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act in this fall’s continuing resolution. Fleming says that Cornyn’s opposition to Lee’s efforts will lose him votes in a potential primary.

Responding to questions about his withdrawal from the defunding effort, Cornyn’s campaign manager said in a statement that the senator “has fought Obamacare tooth and nail for the better part of 4 years, and grassroots conservatives know that he is committed to defunding, dismantling and repealing this massive entitlement before it collapses under its own weight.”

Fleming also argues that this irritation is nothing new; she saw serious grassroots frustration with the senator during his tenure as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “This didn’t just start with the Mike Lee letter, this has been going on for quite some time,” she says.

Some tea-party activists are even pulling from Mark Sanford’s playbook to target the senator. On August 17, a number of groups will hold a mock town hall in Dallas. Pierson, who’s helping organize the event, says they’ve invited Cornyn and Representative Pete Sessions but don’t expect either to show up, so they’ve made a cardboard cut-out of the senator, and they’ll have milk cartons with both men’s faces. (This spring, Sanford held a mock debate against a cardboard cut-out of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi when his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Bush, refused to debate him.)

Fleming says there’s widespread frustration that Cornyn hasn’t held more town-hall meetings.

“A lot of what elected officials, particularly those who have been in Washington a long time, what they will do is they will come into a town and they will meet with local and state elected officials, they will meet with big contributors, and they forget that they need to meet with the average Joe and Jane on the street,” says Pierson.

Fleming’s group is currently trying to set up a town-hall meeting with the senator through his district office; a representative from Cornyn’s office, Kate Martin, tells me the senator had a town hall in the Dallas area last Thursday.

Fleming adds that her group is sponsoring a town-hall meeting with Gohmert tomorrow, and that they’ve been co-sponsoring such meetings with him for several years.

“Every time, every single time we have ever asked [Gohmert] to hold a town-hall meeting, he has been more than willing to do so,” she says.

Gohmert’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether or not he’s mulling a potential senatorial bid. The congressman made headlines this week when he said that, as a district judge, he once had a defendant’s head duct-taped because he wouldn’t keep quiet in the courtroom.

UPDATE: Gohmert told the Washington Examiner that he won’t be running for Senate. But that doesn’t seem to have dampened the hopes of Texan tea partiers.

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