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Three CD-36 Candidates Among Few Who Saw Stockman Switch Coming

At least three of the six Republicans who filed for a Houston-area congressional seat by Monday's original deadline knew ahead of time that the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, was going to seek higher office.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, who filed to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Dec. 9, 2013.

Update, 11:30 a.m.:

While the Texas Republican Party has extended the candidate filing deadline for the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, not just anyone will be allowed to join the six-person field.

Texas Republican Party spokesman Spencer Yeldell confirmed Wednesday that state election laws do not allow for someone who had previously filed for a different race to now switch races. That means incumbents who had already planned to run for re-election can't decide to run to represent Stockman's Congressional District 36 instead.

"If a candidate wants to withdraw from a race, they must do so within 24 of the filing deadline which was 6:00 PM yesterday," Yeldell said in an email. "It is too late for a candidate to withdraw from any other race."

Original story:

Just before 6 p.m. Monday, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman shocked many by opting to end his re-election campaign and formally challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in next year’s Republican primary.

While the Friendswood Republican's decision drew quick national attention that evening, a select few saw it coming. In the days beforehand, news of Stockman’s plans quietly spread among some Texas Republicans, setting off a scramble for those interested in replacing Stockman in the U.S. House but not willing to run against him. 

The Republican Party of Texas announced Tuesday that it would allow another week for candidates to file to run for Stockman's Houston-area congressional district. The extension is likely to draw more candidates to the race, which is now an open seat. 

By Monday’s 6 p.m. filing deadline, at least three of the six Republicans who had filed for Stockman’s seat knew ahead of time that it was going to be an open race.

Insurance agent Dave Norman, a close friend of Stockman who filed for the 36th Congressional District race on Monday, said Stockman began considering a challenge to Cornyn on Friday. He said Stockman debated the decision over the weekend and through part of Monday.

"There was a discussion about it because he did not want an open seat," Norman said.

Norman, whose wife, Bonnie, is a senior community representative in Stockman’s congressional office, said Stockman encouraged him to run for his seat. Stockman's office did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday, though he released a 1,100-word letter to supporters on his website saying he was "sick and tired of being bayoneted in the back by someone in my own foxhole."

Doug Centilli, a longtime chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said he learned about Stockman’s plans Monday afternoon, just hours before the filing deadline. He declined to reveal his source. Centilli said he had very little time to think before he decided to run for the seat.

“It was a very quick decision,” Centilli said. “There was concern that southeast Texas wasn’t going to have an opportunity to have conservative representation.”

Centilli said he officially resigned from his position at Brady’s office on Tuesday to devote himself fully to his campaign. 

“I would not embark on this without Rep. Brady’s blessing,” Centilli said.

Former Seabrook City Councilman Kim Morrell, another hopeful, said he learned about Stockman's plans on Sunday evening.

“I have sources that told me that he was not going to run,” Morrell said. “They did not tell me he was going to jump to the Senate, but they advised me he was not going to run.”

Three other Republicans — Nassau Bay City Councilman John Amdur, former Liberty County Judge Phil Fitzgerald and Lumberton lawyer Charles "Chuck" Meyer — also filed for the CD-36 race. Democrat Michael “MKC” Cole and Libertarians Robb Rourke and Rodney Veach are also running for the seat.

Meyer and Fitzgerald both filed for the race expecting to run against Stockman. Both said they would now have to rethink their campaign strategies.

“I was going to be differentiating myself from the congressman and demonstrating what I brought to the table,” said Meyer, who also ran for the seat in 2012. “I’ll continue to do that, but I have a whole different cast of characters I have to differentiate myself from.”

Fitzgerald said he was also surprised that Stockman switched races. He originally decided to run to provide the district’s Republican voters an option other than Stockman.

“Regardless of what happens, we’ll have a new congressman, so that’s good for Liberty County and this district, in my opinion,” Fitzgerald said.

Amdur did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

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