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By W. Gardner Selby January 28, 2014

John Cornyn was neutral in 2012 U.S. Senate race until Ted Cruz won Republican nomination

An occasionally out-of-pocket Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has leveled eye-catching charges about the second-term senator, calling Cornyn liberal and also suggesting he’s been supportive of the Obamacare law that Cornyn initially voted against in late 2009.

Cornyn’s campaign spokesman, Drew Brandewie, emailed us this month asking us to look into another claim by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood.

On a Stockman campaign web page, Stockman said Cornyn supported Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2012 Senate election won by Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, who started the race as a longshot.

Stockman’s words: "And while John Cornyn backed his pal David Dewhurst, I back Ted Cruz."

We're not sure how to pin whether Stockman now backs Cruz; the state's junior senator isn't on a ballot in 2014.

We focused, instead, on whether Cornyn backed Dewhurst over Cruz in 2012.

Stockman, whom we were unable to reach, did not elaborate on his claim on his website.

During the 2012 race, Dewhurst, lieutenant governor since 2003, was the early favorite as an established statewide officeholder; Cruz hadn't previously run for office.

And along the way there was a hint of grit between Cruz and Cornyn, whom Cruz publicly declined to endorse for a Senate party leadership post. On March 5, 2012, we rated as Half True a Dewhurst claim that Cruz had slurred Republican senators including Cornyn as "graybeards" and "spineless jellyfish." Cruz used those descriptives when talking about Republican candidates, conceivably including senators whom he viewed as insufficiently conservative. Yet it wasn’t clear Cruz was referring to Cornyn.

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But Brandewie pointed out news accounts indicating Cornyn was neutral in the race until Cruz won their party’s nomination. These included a news blog post by the Dallas Morning News on the night of the Senate runoff July 31, 2012, stating that Cornyn—"who remained neutral in the race, despite Cruz’s reluctance to back him in… his bid for Senate GOP whip—praised Cruz for a ‘well-deserved and well-earned victory.’" The post quoted Cornyn as saying in a statement: "This has been a hard-fought and spirited primary battle and the people of Texas would have been fortunate to have any one of these well-qualified candidates as their next U.S. senator."

Separately, we spotted a July 27, 2012, news blog post by the Austin American-Statesman stating that Cornyn had cast his Senate runoff ballot that morning without announcing a preferred aspirant. The post quoted Cornyn as saying: "I’m not picking sides for a very practical reason. I’m going to have to work — it will be my pleasure to work — with whoever the Republican nominee is. We are looking forward to an ally and reinforcements to help us fight the battle for the free-enterprise system and help turn the country around."

A July 29, 2012, Statesman news story noted that Cornyn that year was chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps Republicans in Senate races. Cornyn, the story said, "has kept mum about his home state race and instead has focused on getting other Republicans elected across the country."

We found no news stories saying Cornyn was backing Dewhurst in the race.

Our ruling

Stockman said Cornyn supported Dewhurst over Cruz for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

There’s no evidence of that. In contrast, news reports say Cornyn revealed no preference before congratulating Cruz for winning the Republican nomination, making Stockman's claim False.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

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John Cornyn was neutral in 2012 U.S. Senate race until Ted Cruz won Republican nomination

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