ENDORSEMENT: U.S. Senate: Cornyn should stay in D.C., move toward center
Texas should re-elect Sen. John Cornyn, but the senator should avoid becoming a mere obstructionist in a Senate dominated by Democrats. He has shown he can work across the aisle
October 20, 2008
In what is shaping up to be a Democratic year in national elections, Texas is likely to return Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, to Washington for another six-year term. He faces a credible but underfunded challenge from state Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston.
After meeting with each candidate, we think Texas, in fact, would do best to stick with Cornyn - and that Cornyn would do best to keep tacking back toward the political center if he is going to effectively represent the state's interests in Congress.
Cornyn, 56, is completing his first term as one of the state's two U.S. senators, junior to Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. He has previously served as a state district judge, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court and state attorney general.
It's hardly surprising that a Republican senator from Texas would vote conservatively. The American Conservative Union gave Cornyn a 96 for his 2007 votes, and the Eagle Forum gave him an 88. Though that record wouldn't wow a Travis County Democrat, it won't hurt the senator in the rest of the state. We could also expect that Cornyn would strongly support a president who is not only a fellow Republican, but a fellow Texan.
At times, though, Cornyn seemed little more than an agent of the Bush administration. He hit a low point in 2005, when, amid Republican frustration over getting confirmation of some Bush judicial nominees, Cornyn gave a Senate speech in which he suggested that some recent episodes of courthouse violence had been triggered by frustration "in some quarters" that judges were "making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public." He later downplayed those remarks.
But though Cornyn is a loyal Republican, he's also shown an ability to work with Democrats - a skill he may have to use often if the next Congress is as Democratic as polls suggest it will be and if he wants to accomplish anything for the nation and for Texas.
For instance, he co-sponsored an effort with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., for the federal government to regulate tobacco, and he worked with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on legislation to prosecute people in this country who committed genocide elsewhere.
And the public should especially appreciate Cornyn's work with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to pass legislation that significantly strengthened the Freedom of Information Act.
Noriega, 50, took on a tough job in deciding to run for the Senate in a state that hasn't backed a Democrat in a statewide race since 1994. A casual glance shows an impressive record: a lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard who has served in Afghanistan and along the Texas border with Mexico; a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government; and elected five times to the Texas House.
But his House record is not so impressive. Noriega's one major success as a lawmaker was to pass a bill that gives the children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition at public universities. In contrast, during critical legislative meetings in 2006 on school finance, Noriega voted to have it both ways politically: to reduce school property taxes by one-third while also voting against the bill to make up for that loss of revenue by creating a tax on business.
Cornyn, we think, is the better choice for Texas on Nov. 4, and he will prove us right if he finds a way to serve Texas well and avoid becoming a mere obstructionist in the Senate.