The Brief: Texas Political News for Nov. 26, 2013

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn decries Obamacare at a Capitol press conference on April 1, 2013.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn decries Obamacare at a Capitol press conference on April 1, 2013.

The Big Conversation

Texas' senior senator, John Cornyn, was in fence-mending mode with conservative gadfly Glenn Beck on Monday, telling him "the Tea Party has been the best thing that’s happened to the conservative movement in recent years."

There's no doubt that Cornyn has gotten crosswise with the conservative wing of his party, with Beck going so far as to try to draft WallBuilders founder David Barton to challenge the incumbent in next year's primary. The argument stems mostly from Cornyn's actions over the summer in response to the threatened shutdown of the government in order to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Texas' other senator, Ted Cruz, spearheaded the shutdown campaign. Cornyn initially signed the letter proposing the shutdown and then later removed his name. Add to that his assessment of Tea Party organizer FreedomWorks in an interview as "an organization that uses Republican on Republican violence ... to raise money. That’s why they exist."

Cut to Beck asking Cornyn directly, “What do you mean by ‘Republican on Republican violence’?”

Cornyn replied, “I didn’t think the shutdown, which I thought was an inevitable part of that strategy, was the right tactic to use. And I would classify this, at least in terms of the Senate itself, as sort of a disagreement on tactics among the family. What I think happened from my perspective was that Republicans and conservatives got divided and then we minimized the strength we would otherwise have by being unified.”

He later added, "And you know, like every political party, it’s composed of different elements to a coalition. And my simple position is: We need the Tea Party, and their enthusiasm, and their votes as part of the Republican coalition so we can win the election in 2014."

Ever since Cornyn officially kicked off his re-election bid, he's hammered the theme of unifying the party. At the Scholz Garten event where Cornyn garnered the endorsement of Gov. Rick Perry and said that Republicans are asking for the ability to prove they can "be the responsible adults in the room," the Houston Chronicle's Peggy Fikac also reported Cornyn's warning against intra-party divisions.

“What we’ve seen is that when we’re divided, we capitulate. We basically hand the victory to our political opponents. They win elections, and then they get to govern, and that leads us in disastrous directions like we’re seeing now,” Cornyn said.

The difficulties that Cornyn is having with his conservative wing might also be more than a disagreement on tactics. It might also by a question of personal style, as was suggested by The Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey in a Monday column.

"A lot of this is style. Independent scorecards generally rank Cornyn among the most conservative senators — a point he is insistently invoking in the run-up to the March primaries," Ramsey wrote. "But while Cornyn has taken a methodical path to the top of the heap, Cruz has stormed the hill, flashing a rhetorical flamethrower and a knack for getting in front of the cameras.

Ramsey added, "Cornyn isn’t the patrician [Democratic Sen. LloydBentsen was, but he has the manner of a boardroom regular. If Cruz’s success is in his edginess, Cornyn’s is based on an ability to be congenial and confrontational at the same time."

Culled

•    Davis lawyers ask judge to award fees in redistricting case (Houston Chronicle): "Lawyers who helped Sen. Wendy Davis beat back Republican-led efforts to retool her Tarrant County district urged a federal court Monday to award them hundreds of thousands of dollars spent fighting Attorney General Greg Abbott in the case. It's the latest legal salvo in a bitter court battle ripe with political overtones playing out since 2011 between the figures who have emerged as Texas' top candidates for governor - Davis, a Democrat, and Abbott, a Republican."

•    On Market Decision, Lawmakers Question PUC's Authority (The Texas Tribune): "A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers grilled the Texas Public Utility Commission on Monday, raising hard-edged questions about the agency’s authority to overhaul Texas’ wholesale electricity market in hopes of ensuring the long-term reliability of the state’s electric grid — a move that would send billions more dollars each year to electricity providers."

•    Kinky could see competition in primary (San Antonio Express-News): "Friedman, who didn't return a call on Monday, has said his top priorities now are legalizing marijuana and revitalizing the hemp industry. For him, that's a predictably iconoclastic platform. The problem for Texas Democrats is that an iconoclast is not the type of candidate they want on a statewide ballot while trying to win back the center in a conservative state."

•    N.S.A. May Have Penetrated Internet Cable Links (The New York Times): "How on earth, the companies asked, did the N.S.A. get their data without them knowing about it? The most likely answer is a modern spin on a century-old eavesdropping tradition."

•    William “Bill” Williamson left his mark with iconic star in Texas Capitol (Austin American-Statesman): "Austin resident William “Bill” Williamson, the man responsible for creating the large bronze star hanging atop the state Capitol rotunda, passed away Saturday at the age of 88 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. ... When someone asked if he could build a star for the Capitol rotunda, Williamson agreed to do it for $150. He sketched the design on a napkin and spent one day building it."

Quote to Note: “Having someone like him on the ticket makes it more difficult for Democrats to engage in a campaign to support the entire Democratic ticket. ... And for a party that is desperate to win back the votes of moderate and centrist Anglos, in particular, Friedman is potentially likely to say something that alienates that group.” — Rice University professor Mark Jones on why the Texas Democratic Party might want someone else to run for agriculture commissioner

Must-Read

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