Republican Infighting Escalates as 2014 Races Loom

PHOTO: U.S. Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn walks through the Capitol Building on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC while Rep. Steve Stockman is seen in this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo participating in a mock swearing-in ceremony in Washington, DC.

The Republican Party's civil war seems to be escalating.

The latest battle was initiated last night when Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, filed his primary challenge to the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate John Cornyn.

The move came as a surprise, but it is perhaps the most audacious of a string of primary challenges from the right that are intended to defy the tradition of respecting incumbency.

"I am honored to be called the most fearless conservative in Congress, and proud of my perfect 100 percent lifetime conservative rating," Stockmann wrote to his supporters today. "I am leading the fight for our values. But John Cornyn wakes up every morning and works to make the Senate a more liberal place."

"John Cornyn wakes up every morning and works to make the Senate a more liberal place." - Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas

Many establishment Republicans have been furious for years that some individuals, backed by somewhat moneyed outside groups, have put safe incumbents — and the party's chances of retaking the Senate — in jeopardy for the sake of ideological purity.

Specifically groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project have backed Tea Party or other candidates over incumbents. The Club for Growth, a fiscal conservative group, has done the same in some races.

"They're participating in ruining the [Republican] brand," said House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a Republican from Kentucky who is facing his own challenge.

"What they do is mislead their donors into believing the reason that we can't get as good an outcome as we'd like to get is not because of a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, but because Republicans are insufficiently committed to the cause — which is utter nonsense," McConnell told the Washington Examiner this month while referring to the Senate Conservatives Fund.

And today, Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed another outsider conservative, Milton Wolf, over 16 year Senate veteran Pat Roberts of Kansas.

So far at least eight congressional Republicans are being challenged by conservative candidates.

Here are the top races that will be the battlefield of the Republican civil war in 2014:

PHOTO: U.S. Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn walks through the Capitol Building on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC while Rep. Steve Stockman is seen in this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo participating in a mock swearing-in ceremony in Washington, DC.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images | Evan Vucci/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn walks through the Capitol Building on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC while Rep. Steve Stockman is seen in this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo participating in a mock swearing-in ceremony in Washington, DC.

The Race: Texas Senate
The Incumbent: Sen. John Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip, 11 years in office
The Challenger: Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas' 36th District, Elected in 2012
Taking sides: The National Republican Senatorial Committee will support the incumbent, Cornyn.
On the fence: The Club for Growth, which has endorsed challengers in other races, indicated that they will stay out of this primary. Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project immediately issued statement suggesting that they could endorse a Cornyn challenger.
Primary: March 4, 2014

PHOTO: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Republican caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill Tuesday October 8, 2013 while right, Matt Bevin, Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, is interviewed in Roll Call offices on Sept. 4, 2013.
The Washington Post via Getty Images | Tom Williams/ Getty Images
PHOTO: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Republican caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill Tuesday October 8, 2013 while right, Matt Bevin, Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, is interviewed in Roll Call offices on Sept. 4, 2013.

The Race: Kentucky Senate
The Incumbent: Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, 28 years in office.
The Challenger: Matt Bevin, businessman
Taking sides: Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project have both endorsed Bevin. The National Republican Senate Committee will back McConnell. The U.S Chamber of Commerce has also backed McConnell.
On the fence: Club for Growth
Primary: May 20, 2014


PHOTO: Sen. Thad Cochran, left, ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, on Dec. 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill and Chris McDaniels, right in an undated photo from his website.
J. Scott Applewhite/ AP Photo | Chris McDaniels For Senate
PHOTO: Sen. Thad Cochran, left, ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, on Dec. 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill and Chris McDaniels, right in an undated photo from his website.

The Race: Mississippi Senate
The Incumbent: Sen. Thad Chochran, second most senior Republican senator with 35 years in office.
The Challenger: Chris McDaniels, attorney
Taking sides: Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project, and the Club for Growth have endorsed McDaniels. The NRSC will support Cochran.
Primary: June 3, 2014


Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty Images
PHOTO: Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct.10, 2013.

The Race: Kansas Senate
The Incumbent: Sen. Pat Roberts, 16 years in office
The Challenger: Milton Wolf, medical doctor
Taking sides: The Senate Conservatives Fund has endorsed Milton Wolf. The NRSC will support Roberts.
On the fence: The Club for Growth, The Madison Project.
Primary: Aug. 5, 2014
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