As the number of Brazos County voters passed 60,000 on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. House candidate Pete Sessions and other Republican leaders spoke to an energetic gathering of about 90 supporters in the parking lot of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
The appearance by Texas’ senior senator was part of a Cornyn campaign bus tour that began Wednesday morning in Austin.
Former Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores and Texas Rep. John Raney joined Cornyn and Sessions on the balcony of Cornyn’s bus just after 3 p.m. The leaders took turns addressing a crowd that included a number of local lawmakers and candidates for office.
“I know this has been a tough time during the pandemic for many people,” Cornyn said. “To me, one of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves is who is best prepared to lead us out of this recession, past this pandemic, and to rebuild our economy and the jobs we had before this virus hit. I think the answer is very clear. It’s Donald Trump, Mike Pence and it’s a Republican majority in the United States Senate.”
Asked by reporters after his speech to weigh in on stalled pandemic stimulus negotiations, Cornyn noted the substantial initial federal spending early in the pandemic — “If you told me a year ago that I would vote for 3.8 trillion dollars in spending, I wouldn’t have believed it, but this was a national emergency,” Cornyn said — and then laid blame upon congressional Democrats and on the election for recent inaction.
“We do need to do more. Unfortunately, the closer we got to the election, some of the bipartisan cooperation we saw began to fall apart. We need to help people because there are still some people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves going through some pretty tough times,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn, in recent polling, has held single-digit leads over Democratic challenger MJ Hegar. Cornyn decried a substantial spending push of what he called “tens of millions of dollars pouring in from places like California and New York and Washington, D.C.,” to unseat him as he nears the end of his third term.
“Do you think they did that because they want Texas to be exceptional? Because they share our values? Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” he said.
Sessions, the Republican former congressman seeking to represent U.S. House District 17, expressed his support of Republican policies and candidates on the ballot.
“For years, the Republican Party has been the stalwart party to make sure that the United States military receives the funding that it needs to make sure that the men and women and the families that protected this country would be taken care of,” Sessions said. He is facing Democrat Rick Kennedy and Libertarian Ted Brown.
“What we stand for is far better than what they stand for,” Sessions said of Democrats. “They want to add Puerto Rico and other territories to where they can completely control America politically, and that is the wrong thing to do. We know what we’ve got to do. Let’s go sell the fight and let’s go win.”
In introducing Sessions, Perry said the former Dallas congressman’s two decades of legislative experience would be beneficial for central Texans. Perry also praised Cornyn, saying the two men go back three decades, and also expressed support for Raney and other Republicans.
Several other candidates for local office, including county attorney candidate Earl Gray, Precinct 2 Commissioner hopeful Russ Ford and Bryan City Council candidate Flynn Adcock attended Wednesday’s rally, along with College Station Mayor Karl Mooney and Brazos County Precinct 1 Commissioner Steve Aldrich.
After Cornyn’s speech, Brazos County Republican Party Chair David Hilburn said it was thrilling to have the state’s senior senator make a local stop.
“As a politician, you cannot take anything for granted or assume that we’re going to win just because we always have,” Hilburn said. “Before 1994, the Democrats were winning. As a Republican, we’ve been fortunate to have nearly 30 years of statewide leadership, but we can’t take that as a guarantee.”
In Brazos County as of Wednesday night, a record 54,994 people have voted so far in-person, with another 5,789 people mailing in or dropping off ballots. Asked about the high early vote turnout locally and in Texas, Hilburn expressed optimism about local Republican candidates’ prospects and said statewide races appeared more uncertain. In a representative democracy, Hilburn said, high turnout is key to ensuring voters’ ideals are truly represented.
“Locally, from what we’ve seen, we think Republicans are going to come out ahead. Statewide, who knows? You just don’t know because of the number of people who have never voted before,” Hilburn said.
A considerable portion of the event’s attendees were Cornyn supporters in their 20s and 30s. Justin Farrell, a 30-year-old local Republican precinct chair, said he appreciated Cornyn’s appearance in Bryan-College Station.
“The fact that he’s coming out here to Brazos County and showing up and letting people know that he wants their vote — I think it’s an important thing for me to be out here and support him and let the media know that we support him,” Farrell said. “I’m proud that he’s my senator and I’m looking forward to helping reelect him.”
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