AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- In a last-minute surprise late Monday, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman filed paperwork to challenge fellow Texas Republican and powerful incumbent John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate next year.
Cornyn is the Senate's minority whip and had appeared likely to escape a major primary challenge from the tea party or other conservative factions. But Texas Republican Party spokesman Spencer Yeldell said a Stockman staffer walked into headquarters shortly before the Monday 6 p.m. filing deadline, withdrew the congressman's previously submitted House re-election bid and entered the already crowded race against Cornyn.
Stockman was elected to a district outside Houston last year after a low-profile campaign where he largely ignored the media but urged voters to support his "re-election." He previously served one term in Congress starting in 1994 - and was perhaps best known for accusing the U.S. government of "executing" members of the Branch Davidian cult after the siege near Waco.
Cornyn is well-funded, has been endorsed by GOP Gov. Rick Perry, and should remain the race's clear favorite. Although he insists he's one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Congress, he's drawn the ire of some grass-roots groups for not being enough like Texas' junior senator, tea party firebrand Ted Cruz.
Stockman could not be reached for comment late Monday. But Cornyn campaign manager Brendan Steinhauser responded by saying: "Sen. Cornyn looks forward to discussing his conservative record with Texans."
Even before Stockman entered the race, six little-known Republicans and five Democrats had field to challenge Cornyn, but he's not expected to have much trouble with any of them.