An insurgent candidate backed by the conservative tea party movement convincingly defeated the Republican establishment favorite in Texas' runoff Senate primary election Tuesday, capturing the Republican nomination to replace retiring US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The victory by former state solicitor general Ted Cruz who enjoyed the support of fiercely conservative voters over the mainstream Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst shook one of the country's most staunchly Republican states to its political core.
The race had been closely watched nationally as one of the most-vivid contrasts between the Republican mainstream and grassroots, conservative activists. But as results began to pour in, it turned out to be no contest. Cruz grabbed early leads in key cities around the state where Dewhurst had once enjoyed stronger name recognition, fundraising and political organization.
“We are witnessing a great awakening,” Cruz told cheering supporters in Houston shortly after Dewhurst called him to concede. “Millions of Texans, millions of Americans are rising up to reclaim our country, to defend liberty and to restore the Constitution.”
More than 1 million Texans voted in the runoff, a surprisingly strong turnout for balloting that came during the middle of the summer. Overseeing the state Senate from the powerful lieutenant governor's post since 2003, Dewhurst was long considered a sure winner in his race with Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant. Dewhurst had the endorsement of much of Texas' Republican mainstream, including Gov. Rick Perry, who despite his failed run for president was still popular back home. He also had a $200 million personal fortune he could dip into at will and did. But Cruz has a fiery stage presence that appealed to supporters of the limited government, anti-tax tea party movement, and received millions from national, conservative organizations which targeted Dewhurst as too moderate. He was endorsed by ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former presidential hopeful, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, among other prominent conservatives.