Cornyn draws primary challenger

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest Republican member of the Senate, has drawn a 2014 primary challenger.

Erick Wyatt of Rockport, Texas filed papers this week with the Federal Election Commission to run for Senate against Cornyn, the Senate Minority Whip, who is up for re-election in 2014.

Cornyn is seen as vulnerable to a challenge from the right, and has said he’s been expecting and preparing for a primary battle. He was one of just three senators who voted against John Kerry’s confirmation as Secretary of State. He cast the vote with Texas’ junior senator, tea party favorite Ted Cruz, leading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to accuse him of being in “Cruz control” in an attempt to gird himself against a primary.

Wyatt describes himself as more conservative than Cornyn, and an “ally” of the tea party. But asked why he’s running, in a phone interview with The Daily Caller, Wyatt’s first answer is that “Not enough is being done for our veterans.” Wyatt served in the Army for 10 years and the Coast Guard for four years. He was injured in Iraq in 2007. In 2012, he received temporary disability retirement.

“I’m a very big constitutional conservative and believe we have our God given rights,” he said.

“I’m tired of them getting stomped on … I fought for the constitution and I fought for America and I’m not gonna let them get trampled if I can do anything about it,” he went on.

“More than anything it’s a challenge from a veteran, but I do ally myself very closely with the tea party,” he explained. “I’m a mixture of both.” To that point, the background of his web page is an American flag with “We the people” scrawled across it.

His “one really huge issue with Sen. Cornyn,” he said, is that the senator voted against a 2012 bill that would have added autism coverage to the healthcare benefits provided to military families. Wyatt says it is a personal issue for him because his stepson has autism.

“That really hurt me a lot,” he said.

He says he’s also more conservative than Cornyn is, and touts the importance of “getting some younger blood in the Senate.” Without it, he says, “the Republican party is going to keep struggling.”

Wyatt says has been thinking about a Senate run for several years, ever since he found out he was going to receive temporary disability retirement from the army.

“I would’ve run against Cruz” in 2012, he said, had he been retired by then. But in retrospect, he said, he is glad he didn’t.

“I have a lot of the exact same views as he does, and if I’m trying to describe somebody who I would best mimic, it would be Sen. Cruz,” he said.

“I’m about as outspoken, actually maybe a little more than he is,” Wyatt said.

It is not clear just how serious a challenge Wyatt would present for the minority whip.*

Cornyn’s campaign has $2,671,655 cash on hand, according to the 2012 year end FEC filing.

“As National Journal recently noted, Sen. Cornyn is the second most conservative Senator out of 100,” Cornyn’s office said in a statement to TheDC. “Sen. Cornyn looks forward to discussing his record at the appropriate time but in the interim welcomes Mr. Wyatt into race.”

*This article previously noted the incompleteness of Wyatt’s campaign website. The website has since been updated.

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Alexis Levinson