HOUSTON – Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas fended off a tea party challenge in Tuesday’s Texas primary, easily outdistancing U.S. Rep Steve Stockman and other GOP candidates to capture his party’s nomination.
The Associated Press declared Cornyn the winner as early votes showed the incumbent winning more than 6 in 10 votes.
Stockman, a Houston-area congressman, drew national attention for walking out on President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address and calling for his impeachment. He waged an anti-establishment campaign against the Senate’s second-ranking Republican leader that was peppered with incendiary speeches and gags, but at times alienated tea party activists who complained he was not campaigning hard enough.
While his campaign made Stockman a long shot, experts considered the race something of a bellwether of Republican incumbents’ ability to withstand tea party challenges at a time when a dozen Republican senators running for re-election are facing conservative opponents.
“If Cornyn comes out below 60 percent, then the sense is that he looks relatively weak,” Jim Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said before the vote.
“It’s a protest vote,” said Stuart Rothenberg, who analyzes races for his nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, adding that if Stockman, “were to get 20 percent or 25 percent, it would tell you there’s a chunk of the Republican Party who will vote for anybody who challenges the Republican establishment.”
In another high-profile race Tuesday, Texas Republicans picked the state’s attorney general, Greg Abbott, in the fight to succeed longtime Gov. Rick Perry. Abbott will face Democrat Wendy Davis, who catapulted to national political attention last summer with a nearly 13-hour filibuster over abortion restrictions.