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The “Let’s Primary!” Problem

One of the biggest complaints running around conservative and libertarian circles these days appears to be the, “X politician sucks! Let’s primary him!”

It’s an understandable comment and shows the disconnect between the people and their so-called leaders.  Plus, there are plenty of politicians who claim to be for small government, but appear to have lost their beliefs along the way.

However, just saying, “Let’s primary them!” does nothing to actually solve the problem.  It’s akin to the old man yelling at the sky about the weather.

Activists need an actual plan, plus a candidate who actually stands  a legitimate shot and is willing to work hard to keep his or her name out there.  It’s great to complain about John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Boehner, etc., but until people know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it, their complaints will go nowhere.

In Texas, two politicians who have particularly rankled voters are Senator John Cornyn and Dallas Congressman Pete Sessions.

Much of the anger at Cornyn has to do with his decision to sign U.S. Senator Mike Lee’s “Defund Obamacare” letter, then withdrawing his name.  Cornyn has also gotten heat, particularly from Erick Erickson at Red State, for NRSC’s decision on the exemption for Congressional staffers in Obamacare (Cornyn is the Number 2 Republican in the Senate).  Cornyn was also criticized, again by Erickson and The Heritage Foundation, for his failed Cornyn Amendment to the Gang of 8 immigration bill.

Even with this, no Republican challenger has emerged in next year’s primary.  Congressman Louie Gohmert was pushed by some tea partiers to primary Cornyn, but that hasn’t happened, and probably won’t.  Cornyn enjoys a ton of popularity in Texas and has done well with Club For Growth on their 2012 scorecard and FreedomWorks in their 2010 and 2013 scorecards.

That doesn’t mean Cornyn is without flaws, especially when it comes to some of his votes.  He was for thedeal done by Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” passed TARP, and agreed the FDA should regulate tobacco.  Those aren’t small government votes.  The good news is Cornyn is a smart guy and, at least for now, letting Senator Ted Cruz influence some of his decisions.  Cornyn knows that what happened to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst vs. the Tea Party could happen to him.  It’s why his votes suddenly swung into a more small government standpoint.  Even if his reasons are wrong, he should be commended for his votes.

However, he needs to be held accountable by his constituents.  That means calling, emailing, writing letters and tweeting to keep him accountable.  If Cornyn keeps ignoring what his constituents are saying, then it’s time for him to go.

The case of Congressman Pete Sessions makes a little more sense.  It should be noted Sessions isn’t a bad guy; in fact he’s done a lot for the Republican Party and is considered a key architect of their 2010 takeover of Congress.  But he does have problems, which is why it may be time for him to leave Washington.

Sessions is a major supporter of the Patriot Act, including giving a late 2001/early 2002 presentation at the University of North Texas where he explained and defended his position.  He’s also been someone who supported TARP both times, didn’t vote at all on Dodd-Frank, and got a Chicago blimp company a $1.6-million earmark, a company which a former aide of his worked for.

More recently, Sessions has faced opposition for being against Obamacare, but not completely.  He told a town hall meeting he wanted to end the stalemate in Congress and just let “them fall on their own.”  He wasalso accused of telling lobbyists he had a way to “screw” Ted Cruz’ push to defund Obamacare by having the House pass two continuing resolutions which Nevada Senator Harry Reid could then have his pick of which one he liked.  Pure politics to keep his “more than 30 times” voting record on getting rid of Obamacare accurate.  Cruz called out the House GOP on it, which he should have.

But Sessions is going to be challenged, by Garland activist Katrina Pierson.  Pierson is, at first glance, an example of the kind of candidate conservative and libertarians should want.  She has a track record, is smart, and is known across the 32nd District to anyone who’s seen her on TV or radio.

All this is important, especially to anyone who wants to primary a national politician.  For all the calls to get rid of Senator Lindsey Graham, one of his challengers, Nancy Mace, has been accused of not being ready for prime time.  It’s why there’s now a second challenger, state Senator Lee Bright.

The same goes with Senator John McCain.  His last challenger was ex-Congressman J.D. Hayworth, who was voted out of office over his ties to Jack Abramoff.  Katie Pavlich may be the answer, but 2016 is a long ways off.

The biggest question people need to ask is “who?” when they’re calling for a primary challenge to a candidate.  The next is, “will there be enough time to set things up and get a ground game going?” It’s the only way primary challenges will work.