Once more, with feeling
On January 3, the day he was sworn in as the new U.S. representative from Texas’s 36th District, Steve Stockman appeared to be having more fun than any of the 33 other freshman Republicans elected to the House last November.
“Hey, Joe!” Stockman shouted, as he spotted former Florida Rep. and present MSNBC-TV host Joe Scarborough on the House floor, “I didn’t recognize you without your makeup.”
Even before he took the oath of office and cast his first vote for speaker of the House, Stockman freely volunteered to colleagues and well-wishers that under no circumstances would he vote to re-elect John Boehner as speaker of the House. Even as 12 Republicans refused to vote for him, Boehner retained his gavel; Stockman later told Human Events he planned to vote for conservative radio personality Mark Levin but after it became clear Boehner would be re-elected on one ballot, the Texan decided to vote “present.”
“[Boehner] caved too much in the last Congress,” Stockman said. “I would never have voted for the tax bill that finally passed. If we’re going to get genuine spending cuts, then we’ve got to fight hard and use everything we can—including refusing to raise the debt ceiling.”
It’s a small wonder that the freshman lawmaker should be so outspoken and so ebullient. It has been 18 years since he unseated Democratic Rep. (1952-1994) Jack Brooks in one of the biggest upsets of 1994 and 16 years after he was beaten for re-election. And where he formerly represented a district that was heavily Democratic, Stockman this year emerged triumphant in a newly created district in which the Republican primary is tantamount to election.
This journey from the political junk heap to a memorable comebacks is nothing short of high drama, and is what makes the Stockman saga one of the most unforgettable of any freshman Republican in Congress.
‘Conservatives and proud of it’
When Stockman unseated Brooks as part of the “Gingrich Class” in the first Republican-controlled House in 40 years, media profiles frequently noted that he was a former homeless person who once lived in his car. But the young man turned his life around when he became a Christian, married his wife Patty, earned an accounting degree from the University of Houston, and went into private business.
“Had I been a liberal Democrat, they would have called me the ‘embodiment of the American dream,’” he said, “but I’m a conservative Republican and a Christian, so they always called me a ‘former vagrant.’
Compiling a strong conservative voting record, Stockman went down after one term. After losing a bid for state railroad commissioner and dabbling in various enterprises, the former congressman put politics behind him—almost. When the Republican-controlled state legislature created the new and safely Republican district after the 2010 census, Stockman joined nine other candidates in the all-important Republican primary.
However, the primary favorite, State Sen. Mike Jackson, placed third. In second place was financial planner Stephen Takach (22 percent) and Stockman (21 percent), thus making the resulting run-off a “Stephen vs. Steve” race.
“Well, you’ll hear a lot of ‘Stockman was lucky’ and similar stuff—just don’t believe it,” Stockman said. “I could not have done it without all the hard-working, grass-roots volunteers. Believe me, we had them—young conservatives who came into an old motorcycle shop, worked the precincts and made phone calls, slept on the floor, and ate MREs for their three meals. There’s nothing like volunteers who believe in a candidate and a cause.”
But, he insisted, “the candidate has to believe in something to attract and motivate those kinds of supporters. We talked about our support for the right to keep and bear arms. Our yard signs said I was ‘NRA-endorsed,’ we embraced social issues such as abortion and talked a lot about my pro-life record and support for traditional marriage. We were conservatives and proud of it.”
When it was pointed out that Stockman’s opponent Takach also embraced those positions and agreed with him on the immediate repeal of Obamacare, the former congressman shot back: “Excuse me. Those positions went up on his website after May 28, when he was facing me in the run-off. Up to that point—and we photographed it—his website never mentioned issues like that and he spoke primarily that he was a businessman who could create jobs.”
Recalling his record in Congress, several national conservative organizations embraced Stockman early on: “the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, Citizens United, all were for us. And, while we couldn’t afford television, their support allowed us to do mailings, and reach the conservative base.”
He also cited entertainer Pat Boone, the spokesman for the 60 Plus Association, a seniors advocacy group, cutting a robocall for him that went out to voters on the day of the run-off, July 31. Stockman, like Boone and 60 Plus President James L. Martin, has long supported outright repeal of the death tax.
In the closing days of the race, Takach may have committed a major error when one of his mailings criticized Stockman for declaring bankruptcy in 2002. Stockman hit back hard, recalling that he quit working and was forced to declare bankruptcy as the full-time caregiver for his late father during the elder Stockman’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
On July 31, outspent by about 4-to-1, the former congressman won with 55.8 percent of the vote.
Disappointed in Grover
One day after he was sworn in, Stockman was still upset about the tax bill enacted by the last Congress and made clear his disappointment with friends on the right who helped make its enactment come about.
“Quite honestly, I was disappointed to learn that Grover Norquist [president of Americans for Tax Reform] and the American Conservative Union were giving Republicans in the last Congress a ‘pass’ to vote for it,” he said.
“It’s a tax increase, for goodness sake!”
Stockman added that what was even worse about the tax bill was that “it demonizes the top one percent of wage earners—people like [the late AppleCEO] Steve Jobs and [Microsoft Founder] Bill Gates, who send tons of revenue to the government. Why someone can say ‘I love jobs but I hate the job-makers’ is beyond me. That’s what that tax bill says.”
The Texan believes it is time for conservatives in the House to embrace the principles that “made us great.” He plans to introduce a bill to cut taxes across the board.
“And it will be called the Kennedy Clinton Act, because Jack Kennedy made an eloquent case for lowering tax rates and Bill Clinton gave us the biggest cut ever in the capital gains tax and that was a major reason he left office with a surplus,” he said. Stockman also called on his colleagues in the House to pass legislation adopting the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission on deficit reduction.
In 2005, Human Events reported how Stockman had a most intriguing meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria with Simeon Saxe Coburg-Gotha—once the boy king of his country as King Simeon II, deposed by the Communists after World War II, and returned to power with his election to prime minister, from 2001-05.
In 2012, Steve Stockman’s return to Congress was clearly a comeback that, in terms of drama, nearly rivals that of his Bulgarian friend.