BEDFORD — Since launching his bid for U.S. Senate against incumbent John Cornyn five weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman has been a hard man to find. The Friendswood Republican has consented to few interviews and has done little in-person campaigning.
On Monday evening, Stockman was expected to make one of his first public appearances in Texas in months. He was scheduled to address the NE Tarrant Tea Party twice: first at a private gathering closed to the media, and later at the group’s monthly meeting.
It was not to be. Rather than hearing from Stockman directly, attendees heard from Al Lee, a former candidate for Railroad Commissioner and a “campaign coordinator” for the candidate. The congressman, Lee explained, was stuck in traffic.
“He was heading up to here and he got about half way and he got called back,” Lee said. Stockman asked Lee to represent him at the meeting when he realized he wasn’t going to make it from the Houston area in time, Lee said.
When asked why Stockman has not been more visible on the campaign trail in recent weeks, Lee said that, until very recently, Stockman was out of the country.
“He was in Egypt until a couple of days ago because he’s on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” Lee said. The trip was planned before Stockman decided to run for statewide office, Lee said.
“It’s congressional business,” Lee said. “He was there for the House of Representatives.”
During the public portion of the NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting, Lee described his 25-year friendship with Stockman and praised him as the “fearless conservative” the Senate needed.
“He has made national headlines at least three times for things that he has done in the House that nobody else really had the backbone to do,” Lee told more than 150 attendees. “One of them was that he threatened that if President Obama used executive privilege to confiscate guns, he would initiate impeachment proceedings.”
Lee repeatedly framed the Senate Republican primary as one pitting a garden-variety Republican against a true conservative.
“We don’t just need Republicans. We need conservatives. Believe me, half of the people who have an 'R' behind their name are no better than Democrats,” Lee said, drawing applause from attendees.
Lee said there is clear evidence that Cornyn is not a conservative, referring to his disagreement last year with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz over the best way to block President Obama's health reform law.
“A guy that stabs Ted Cruz in the back when Ted Cruz is fighting to defund Obamacare, that’s not a conservative and that’s not a Texan,” Lee said.
Lee also criticized Texans for a Conservative Majority, a pro-Cornyn political action committee that has launched ads and a website against Stockman. Lee noted that a large amount of the group’s funding came from Bob Perry, a homebuilder who was one of the most prolific GOP donors in the country until his death in 2013.
Stockman’s campaign has described Perry as “pro-amnesty” due to his past opposition to certain immigration measures. At the portion of the meeting that was closed to the press, Lee handed out flyers criticizing Texans for a Conservative Majority, repeatedly referencing the group’s financial backing from “an illegal alien amnesty supporter.”
After the meeting, Lee said he was not in a position to discuss recent questions raised about Stockman’s personal finances or campaign donations. When asked by a reporter who was in a position to address those issues, Lee said Stockman would likely be the best person to respond. Stockman has refused most press inquiries in recent weeks.
“He isn’t very fond of most of the media," Lee said.