Many Texas Republicans reluctant to accept Joe Biden's win as legitimate

AUSTIN — As the counting in Pennsylvania showed Democratic President-elect Joe Biden with more than enough electoral college votes to capture the White House, the response from influential Texas Republicans was largely either silence or defiance.

“I think that is way premature at this point,” U.S. Sen Cruz of Texas said Sunday on Fox News. “We do not know who has prevailed in the election. The media is desperately trying to get everyone to coronate Joe Biden as the next president, but that’s not how it works.”

Cruz, one of President Donald Trump's rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said he envisions a scenario similar to the aftermath of the election 20 years when the Supreme Court intervened more than a month after the votes were cast to cement George W. Bush's victory.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stand on the stage Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who won his fourth term Tuesday, said in a response to reporters' questions at the U.S. Capitol about whether he had any evidence of voter fraud, "That's really not my, my role."

"There is a process that is available, and I don't begrudge the president for availing himself of that process," Cornyn said in a report by The Associated Press. "But in the end, they're going to have to come up with some facts and evidence."

The Trump campaign has already filed several court challenges related to vote-counting this cycle, but as of Monday, none appeared to be gaining measurable traction.

President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz hug it out on the campaign trail

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Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said that process should play out before considering the election a done deal.

“Democracy depends upon fair and open elections. We all agree that every legal vote counts and that illegal votes do not,' Abbott said in a statement released late Monday. "There are processes in place in each state to determine if any vote is legal, and we must respect those processes to ensure the integrity of our elections."

East Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert said he traveled to Pennsylvania during the ongoing vote-counting where he had largely unsubstantiated claims that Democrats were looking to steal the election.

"President Trump will prevail," Gohmert said in a video. "He will be declared the legal, legitimate, fair winner of the presidential election."

President Donald Trump leaves the podium after speaking at the White House on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, a Coastal Bend Republican, co-signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr calling for the Justice Department to play a role in the vote counting and suggesting U.S. marshals be commanded to "ensure that judicial orders are carried out" if necessary.

One notable exception among some Texas Republicans' reluctance to affirm Biden's victory was Bush, who assumed the presidency after one of the most bitter and contentious post-election battles in history.

"Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country," Bush said in a statement released Sunday. "The President-elect reiterated that while he ran as a Democrat, he will govern for all Americans. I offered him the same thing I offered Presidents Trump and Obama: my prayers for his success, and my pledge to help in any way I can."

Former US President George W. Bush speaks during the funeral service of late Civil Rights leader John Lewis at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on July 30, 2020.

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican who did not seek re-election to his sprawling district between El Paso and San Antonio, also separated himself from some in his party as he called out Trump's overheated and misleading rhetoric about the vote-counting process.

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WILL HURD

"A sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous & wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon," Hurd said in a tweet as the vote counting continued last week. "Every American should have his or her vote counted."

After Pennsylvania put Biden over the top, Hurd followed up.

"It’s time to come together. America has spoken and we must respect the decision," he said. "More unites us than divides us; we can find common ground. I hope the president-elect can embody this. I wish him good luck and I wish the president a successful final few weeks."

Texas Democratic leaders, who saw their state land in the Republican column for the 11th straight time in presidential elections, responded to Biden's victory with a joy that stopped short of gloating.

"We are all ready to heal the nation and unify the nation with our new President Elect Joe Biden and our new Vice President Elect Kamala Harris," said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston.

Added Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Austin: "A day of hope, celebration, and new opportunities. Majority of Americans have pulled us back from the abyss into which Trump has been plunging our democracy."

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State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, the longest-serving woman in the Texas Legislature, said she hopes the new administration lowers the temperature in what appears to be an increasingly divided nation.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

"I think Joe Biden and (Vice President-elect) Kamala Harris are just what this country needs at this time," she said.

Thompson, who is Black and has been a lawmaker since 1973, said the ascension of Harris is especially inspiring. Harris is the daughter of an African-American father and an Indian-American mother.

"I think every little girl – whether she is African-American, Asian, Native, Hispanic, White – can look up and see Kamala Harris and say, 'There is nothing I can't do; there is nothing I can't be.'"

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at jmoritz@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.