Texas Republicans aligned with conservative tea party favorite U.S. Senator Ted Cruz won primary runoffs on Tuesday for two of the state's most powerful posts, while U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, was ousted by a challenger about half his age.
Conservative talk radio host Dan Patrick, the tea party caucus founder in the Texas Legislature, ousted long-time incumbent David Dewhurst to claim the Republican nomination for the powerful office of lieutenant governor.
State Senator Ken Paxton, also aligned with Cruz, defeated Dan Branch, a state representative since 2002, in the race for attorney general.
The tea party victories over established politicians boosts the stature of Cruz, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, and returns some luster to the tea party movement. Establishment-backed conservatives have turned back tea party challengers in Republican primaries in Kentucky, North Carolina and other states as GOP party leaders have made it a priority to avoid the presence of candidates on the ballot this fall who are seen as too conservative or unsteady —- or both — to prevail in winnable races.
But there were few such fears in Texas where Republicans have dominated statewide races for more than two decades. Tea party challengers kept winning as the polls closed in Tuesday's primary election runoffs, signaling a further move to the right in the largest conservative U.S. state. It wasn't a total sweep for anti-establishment Republicans, but they won enough key races to put Texas on track to veer even further right on abortion, gun rights and spending come 2015.
The Texas runoffs were for races where no single candidate crossed the 50 percent threshold in the March 4 primary. In the race for governor in the state with a $1.4 trillion annual economy, current attorney general, Greg Abbott, easily won the March Republican primary and will face Democrat Wendy Davis, who also won in March.
Hall, the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives, lost in a Republican primary runoff election to tea party-backed challenger, John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney. Ratcliffe painted Hall as too cozy with the Republican establishment after 34 years in office
Hall, a World War Two veteran, was first elected to the U.S. House in 1980 from congressional District 4, an area to the northeast of Dallas. He was seeking his 18th term. No Democrat is running in the district that stretches from suburban Dallas east to Louisiana and north to Oklahoma — meaning Ratcliffe will be headed to Washington after the November general election.
In an unexpected Democratic runoff, Kesha Rogers, who's allied with frequent presidential candidate and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, lost to Dallas dental mogul David Alameel. The Texas Democratic Party had urged voters to nominate Alameel to be its underdog to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the November election.