At the re-election campaign kickoff for Texas’ senior U.S. senator on Friday, the specter of the state’s junior senator loomed large.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn spoke to a crowd of supporters at Austin’s Scholz Garten about the need for Republicans to unite against the threat posed by Democrats, rather than fighting one another.
“We need to say we’re the party of the big tent. ...We’ve got libertarians, we’ve got social conservatives, we’ve got the Tea Party, the establishment," Cornyn said.
The argument seemed like a direct response to the anger Cornyn has drawn from some conservatives for his decision to not back U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in his recent campaign against Obamacare, which ultimately led to a government shutdown. The saga has prompted some activists to seek to replace Cornyn in the March primary. Along with Cornyn, at least three Republicans and one Democrat have announced interest in joining the race.
Gov. Rick Perry introduced Cornyn and vouched for his conservative record. At one point, Perry seemed to be directly addressing some of the recent anger Cornyn has drawn from within his own party.
“When it comes to the United States Congress, the trick is to not listen to what people say. It’s to watch what they do,” Perry said. “No one has a better voting record in the Senate than John Cornyn. He is the epitome of a Texas statesman.”
Following Perry’s introduction, Cornyn delivered a speech about making the rest of the country “more like Texas” and “keeping Texas red.”
“We don’t want a Nancy Pelosi clone as the next governor of Texas, nor do we want to turn over the same Senate seat that Sam Houston first held, which I currently occupy, to a Democrat in November,” Cornyn said.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Cornyn said his comments were not meant as a rebuttal of Cruz or his supporters.
“We had a minor disagreement in the family over tactics and the tactic led to a government shutdown,” Cornyn said. “I happen to believe that was a bad thing because we have to demonstrate our ability to govern and to try and offer solutions. But, as I said earlier, I think we all hopefully learned from that experience and it will not be repeated.”
Perry added that Cornyn has the seniority and the experience that Texans want representing them in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve been running for office, either together or knowing each other, since I think 1984,” Perry said.
A smirking Cornyn looked to Perry and asked, “We’re not that old, are we?”