Politics & Government

Top Texan opens wallet for struggling GOP candidates

Texas Sen. John Cornyn speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, July 24, 2018.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, July 24, 2018. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is not up for re-election until 2020, raised more than $10 million for other GOP Senate candidates this cycle, according to a source familiar with his political operation.

Cornyn would like to move into his party’s top Senate leadership position, and being generous with colleagues is a time-honored way of winning their support.

He’s raised $9.39 million for Republicans’ Senate campaign arm — playing an “indispensable” role in the committee’s fundraising, according to its leadership.

Cornyn’s also contributed nearly $100,000 to the campaigns of individual GOP lawmakers and candidates so far this cycle, according to data provided to the Star-Telegram.

Reports from the most recent fundraising period were due July 15. Details about which candidates received the money are still being uploaded into the Senate’s database.

Republicans currently hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.

A large number of Democrats face tough re-election races in states that President Donald Trump won this year, but fundraising has been tepid for many of their GOP challengers.

“I think we have a shot at picking up a few [seats]… if we can do more than that would be great,” Cornyn told the Star-Telegram Tuesday. “We’ve seen how precarious it can be to navigate the Senate with just 50 votes.”

Republicans have been operating with 50 votes since Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, became ill and stopped attending Senate sessions earlier this year.

Cornyn has attended or is scheduled to attend fundraisers for GOP Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Dean Heller, R-Nevada, and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, all of whom are on the ballot this November, as well as Republican Senate candidates in Tennessee, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Arizona, West Virginia and Ohio.

Cornyn reported $5.39 million in his own campaign account, as of June 30.

Asked whether there’s a plan to take out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says no chance.

That war chest could also help the Texan’s own political goals — which are the source of much speculation in Washington.

Cornyn is currently No. 2 in the Senate GOP leadership and considered the logical successor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who is 76.

But McConnell is already gearing up to run for another six-year term in 2020, and GOP Senate leadership term limits mandate Cornyn, who is 66, give up his whip role at the end of the year.

“Sen. McConnell has generously extended an offer for me to continue to sit at the leadership table, so I look forward to continuing to be helpful to him and to the conference and see what develops,” Cornyn told the Star-Telegram Tuesday.

Without specifying what role he could move into, Cornyn said he expects to continue helping with both policy and politics.

“I would expect to continue, much as a I have, to try to help leadership and help our conference be successful,” said Cornyn. “I’ve also helped on the political side, raising money for candidates and for the senatorial committee.”

Cornyn is a prolific fundraiser who has twice chaired the GOP’s Senate campaign committee. He led the committee’s current leadership on a fundraising tour of his home state, which gives big to Republican candidates, this spring.

With the exception of the group’s chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Cornyn has raised more for the committee this cycle than any of his GOP colleagues, according to a Republican familiar with the group’s finances.

“I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more committed to this majority,” Gardner told the Star-Telegram Tuesday.

This post was updated to include additional information about the GOP’s Senate campaign committee and Sen. Cornyn’s campaign activities.

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at adrusch@mcclatchydc.com; @andreadrusch