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Tea Party candidate to challenge Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn (+video)

In an unexpected turn of events, Rep. Steve Stockman announced Monday that he plans to run against Senate minority whip John Cornyn in the Texas Republican primaries in March. 

By Staff writer / December 10, 2013

Rep. Steve Stockman (R) Texas (2nd r.) participates in a mock swearing-in ceremony with House Speaker John Boehner in Washington in January. Stockman filed a last-minute Republican primary challenge Monday against Sen. John Cornyn.

Evan Vucci/ AP Photo/File

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Rep. Steve Stockman (R) of Texas is launching a campaign against a fellow Texas Republican, Sen. John Cornyn, marking perhaps the highest-profile tea party challenge so far to an establishment Republican in next spring's primaries.

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Katherine Jacobsen writes for the Monitor's international desk. 

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John Cornyn got an unexpected challenge in the Republican primary from Congressman Steve Stockman of Friendswood, who represents the Texas 36th.

Political experts had anticipated that Senator Cornyn would sweep through the primaries without any serious challenges, but Representative Stockman filed for the seat minutes before the 6 p.m. local deadline, according to Texas Republican Party spokesman Spencer Yeldell.

Stockman is known for his inflammatory gestures, such as likening President Obama to Saddam Hussein, inviting Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address this year, and calling for the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations. 

It's not yet clear how much of a challenge Stockman will present to Cornyn. Stockman has only $32,000 cash-on-hand, while Cornyn has $7 million. Moreover, two groups that often back primary opponents against incumbent senators, the Senate Conservative Fund and the Madison Project, both praised the general concept of a conservative challenge to Cornyn but stopped short of endorsing Stockman, The New York Times reported.

Stockman's entry into the primaries, however, will put pressure on Cornyn to more further to the right. Stockman has already said he plans to attack Cornyn over the senator's perceived transgressions against the tea party. 

Before July, Cornyn had racked up impressive conservative credentials. The Texas Republican has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association; a voting records that jibes nicely with oil interests; stellar ratings from pro-life groups; and has also won multiple awards from the antitax group, Americans for Tax Reform. In 2012, the National Journal ranked Cornyn as the second most conservative senator.

But Cornyn’s failure to support Sen. Ted Cruz’s crusade against Obamacare left him with a political Achilles’ heel.

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