WASHINGTON – This time, Goliath beat David.
A long-shot bid by Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, to unseat the second-most powerful man in the Senate has come up short.
Stockman’s strategy was to try to force Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, into a runoff by keeping him below 50 percent of the vote in the Texas GOP primary on Tuesday.
But, underfunded and targeted by GOP strategist Karl Rove, Stockman fell short, as Cornyn captured 61.6 percent of the vote at 17.1 of precincts reporting.
“It’s not what we wanted, but he had $14 million,” Stockman told WND just minutes after polls closed. “I don’t think we could honestly compete with that. We tried, though.”
Asked if he would have done anything differently, he said, “I wish we had more money. [Cornyn] saturated the radio in Houston with $2 million in ads calling me ‘Shady Stockman.'”
Stockman didn’t just lose the race; he lost his job as a lawmaker in Washington. He risked his safe seat on the House of Representatives to challenge Cornyn, and will now lose that seat in the next Congress.
But he told WND, “Quite frankly, we took on a huge challenge, and we did fairly well. We still have the skill-set to win again, so we’ll be back.”
Stockman added, “I’m a fighter. I’m not going to stand down. The difference between a winner and a loser is whether you get back up. And I’m going to get back up.”
Other key races in Texas
Also Tuesday night, top House Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, a nine-term congressman and chairman of the House Rule Committee who represents Dallas’ 32nd Congressional District, survived a tea-party challenge from Katrina Pierson, who received endorsements from the Tea Party Express, the Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Sessions got more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Pierson only raised $144,000 to Sessions’ $1.4 million.
Both Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democrat state Sen. Wendy Davis handily secured their positions in the Texas gubernatorial primaries.
In the most competitive GOP primary, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is in a tight race with state Sen. Dan Patrick. With 50 percent of precincts reporting, Patrick captured 42 percent of the vote and Dewhurst trailed at 28 percent. If neither candidate exceeds 50 percent, they enter a run-off set for May 27. The winner will face Democrat Leticia van de Putte, who is running unopposed, in the general election.
Also, George P. Bush, 37, the son of Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush easily beat his GOP primary opponent, David Watts, for land commissioner. The contest marked the beginning of Bush’s political career.
A roller-coaster battle
It meant Cornyn would have to gain eight points in the following two weeks to break the 50 percent threshold and avoid a runoff.
A runoff would have been critical because it would have changed the entire direction of a race.
That’s why forcing a runoff was the centerpiece of Stockman’s strategy, the same strategy that sent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to the Senate in 2012.
The goal was to force a runoff to buy time needed to rally the grassroots, raise funds and obtain key endorsements.
Cruz entered the race in 2012 as a little-known and under-funded outsider taking on the GOP establishment candidate.
Cruz began with a double-digit deficit in the polls, but after getting his opponent under 50 percent and forcing a runoff election, he garnered key endorsements from such GOP kingmakers as Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint. Cruz then went on to beat Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by 14 points in the runoff and then beat the Democrat by 15 points in November.
When Stockman unexpectedly entered the race at the last minute in December, the initial poll had Cornyn at 50 percent and Stockman at 6 percent, a difference of 44 points.
When the poll two weeks ago showed Stockman jumped to 28 percent and Cornyn had fallen to 43 percent, the difference became just 15 points.
That meant Stockman had made up an incredible 29 points since entering the race.
Cornyn had almost $7 million in campaign funds in the bank compared to Stockman’s $47,000, but Stockman had gained key name recognition, and made a name for himself in a short time during his second stint in Congress (he previously served from 1995 to 1997), as one of the most reliably conservative voices in the House of Representatives.
Stockman also garnered a reputation for stinging one-liners with such tweets as, “Liberals love diversity. That’s why they punish anyone who doesn’t think, act, eat, drink, drive and speak exactly like them.”
Scathing remarks like that are why Stockman had become the darling of so many conservatives and the bogeyman to such liberal outfits as MSNBC.
‘I was tea party before there was a tea party’
The congressman said all of his victories have been David versus Goliath races, noting that he beat the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, in 1994 even though the incumbent outspent him by 12 to one.
The man who likes to say, “I was tea party before there was a tea party,” said the trick was getting his conservative message to the voters.
“In 2012, I was such an underdog the Houston Chronicle proclaimed I had no chance of winning. They did this horrible piece on me, then said, ‘But don’t worry! He has no chance of winning, because he has no campaign ads, no consultants’ and so on,” Stockman cheerfully recounted.
He claimed that despite facing 12 candidates, including a multi-millionaire, and running in a gerrymandered district that had been carved-out for the third-highest ranking Texas official, who the papers declared had the race all but sewn-up, “We were victorious because we ran on a conservative platform that spoke to the grassroots.”
Why was this such an important election?
“Because John Cornyn is the second-highest ranking official in the Senate. He sets agendas. That’s why I gave up my seat. He’s so critical to the direction this nation is going, and to have someone who is committed to being less confrontational with Obama and try to be more appealing to Obama, as he advised, I think is a mistake,” the congressman opined.
‘A vote for Obamacare’
Stockman said the GOP actually lost seats when Cornyn was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee because he doesn’t advocate a conservative agenda. The congressman said the senator only sounds like a conservative when he runs for re-election.
“Even though his ads say he is a conservative, (Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Wendy Davis sounds like a conservative. Obama sounded like a conservative when he was running, if you actually listened to the rhetoric. But we have to look at his voting record and his positions. And it is abundantly clear that they are different than the mainstream conservative values.”
Illustrating his point, Stockman said, “A vote for Cornyn is a vote for Obamacare.”
The congressman said Cornyn has supported Obamacare numerous times in the false notion that it’s going to help the Republican Party, adding, “That’s going to absolutely destroy our nation.”
His voice rising to demonstrate his conviction, Stockman declared, “I gave up my safe U.S. House seat to run against John Cornyn for U.S. Senate because I don’t want to see the Obamacare repeal movement defeated.”
The congressman maintained it is one thing to face a Democrat as a clearly defined opponent, but quite another when you have a Republican who consistently works against other Republicans, saying that Cornyn worked against Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida, Senate candidate Joe Miller in Alaska and even against his fellow Texas senator, Cruz.
In fact, when Stockman broke the news to WND in December that he would challenge Cornyn, the congressman cited as his top reason how the incumbent GOP senator “undermined Sen. Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”
“It’s better to have someone who’s knows what he stands for as opposed to a Republican who acts more like a Democrat,” Stockman said at the time.
On another hot-button issue, Stockman pointed out that Cornyn had claimed that Republicans could not win in 2016 without “resolving” the immigration issue, which conservatives took to mean granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.
“He’s come out time and time again for it. He did a bill promoting it with Lindsey Graham, and he’s now trying to distance himself from it. The people sending out these attack ads are primarily pro-amnesty people.”
The race turned downright nasty as Stockman came under a withering attack from establishment Republicans.
A super Political Action Committee, or PAC, supporting Cornyn made such stunning claims about Stockman that he filed a lawsuit claiming “numerous false statements” including “some of the most outrageous, malicious defamation ever recorded in Harris County (Texas).”
The congressman’s office said the PAC listed Karl Rove’s Warrenton, Va., address in TV station records for its ad purchases.
WND broke the news that Stockman planned to file an ethics complaint in the Senate against Cornyn, citing 24 alleged campaign violations.
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth.