What would happen if Sen. Cornyn becomes FBI Director?

President Trump has Senator John Cornyn on his shortlist to replace Comey. But if Cornyn becomes the new FBI director what would that mean for the future of Texas Politics.

As President Trump moves quickly to tap a new Director of the FBI after his dismissal of James Comey, one prominent name has garnered considerable attention: Senator John Cornyn. 

No sitting US Senator has ever been tapped to head the Department, signifying the historical aspect of his presence on the shortlist.  

If chosen, and then confirmed to head the FBI, it could create a massive ripple effect across statewide politics. 

"I think if Cornyn moves from Senator to FBI Director, that has a huge effect on our state politics," said University of Texas history professor Jeremi Suri. 

So what would happen if Cornyn vacates his seat?

First, Governor Greg Abbott would pick an interim to hold onto the seat until November.

"(Gov. Abbott) has to calculate what would serve his interest and his re-election best, and what would serve the interest of the Republican party in the long term.  I doubt the Governor would put someone in there as a placeholder.  He'll look to put someone in there who can be elected in November," explained Suri. 

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the November election, the two candidates with the most votes would then head to a run-off race. 

Suri said there's strategy behind who Abbott could choose. 

"Generally, governors use the appointment as a way to put someone in place, and give them a head start on the election.  So, I think he would look towards shoring up Republican control over that seat and shoring up his own standing in the state," Suri said. 

He mentioned Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Congressman Michael McCaul as two people that Governor Abbott could consider for the position, adding Abbott may have a personal stake in picking Patrick. 

"One of the concerns that Gov. Abbott has is that Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will challenge him when he's up for re-election as Governor.  So, he has to calculate what would serve his interest and his re-election best, and what would serve the interest of the Republican Party in the long-term," said Suri. 

A potential 2017 race could also have ramifications on 2018 - where Rep. Beto O'Rourke is mounting a challenge against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. 

"A race in 2017 for Senator Cornyn's seat brings more attention to Texas, it brings more Democratic money in.  And most of all, it gives Democrats more momentum in mobilizing people for 2018.  What the challengers to Ted Cruz have to struggle with is getting people interested in the race early. Having another Senate election the year before helps to get people interested and concerned about the issues," said Suri. 

It could also re-open the door for Congressman Joaquin Castro, who decided not to challenge Sen. Cruz in 2018.  By running for the Senate seat in 2017, Castro could protect his incumbency status in Congress. 

"I think the chances are very high that if Senator Cornyn leaves the Senate, and there's an election in 2017, that Joaquin Castro would run and I think the chances are pretty good that he'd be a tough competitor for the Republicans," said Suri. 

Despite Cornyn's popularity - he's never lost an election, and is considered well-respected on both sides of the aisle - Suri believed he'd have difficulty being confirmed. 

"I think Democrats and some Republicans would be very resistant to Sen. Cornyn as a potential FBI Director. First of all, the Democrats would see Sen. Cornyn as a friendly voice for Donald Trump.  He's been a consistent supporter of Donald Trump through the Republican campaign, through the Presidential campaign, and since Trump's been in office.  The Democrats will not view Cornyn as an objective, independent voice," said Suri.  

Suri added that Cornyn could expect to face pushback within his own party. 

"Many Republicans would like to see somebody appointed who's a career FBI, or at least a career law enforcement official, and not somebody who is not tied to either party directly," Suri said. 

From a political landscape, Cornyn currently serves as the Senate Majority Whip.  Republicans control 52 Senate seats, another factor that Suri said may lead some Republicans to try and convince Cornyn to hold his position. 

As for his potential interest, Cornyn told KVUE, "I have the distinct privilege of serving 28 million Texans in the United States Senate, and that is where my focus remains."

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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