WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The results of Texas’ primary runoff elections on Tuesday could reveal underlying trends ahead of the November general election in the nation’s largest conservative state. Here are five things to watch in the Republican and Democratic runoffs:
TEA PARTY TRIUMPH?
Ever since grass-roots firebrand Ted Cruz upset Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in their 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary, most top Texas conservatives have scrambled hard to the right. Even though insurgent candidates have struggled this year elsewhere around the country, the Texas GOP’s enthusiastic embrace of tea party ideals will continue if two runoff races go as expected. Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick, who founded the tea party caucus in the Texas Legislature, is poised to knock Dewhurst from a post he has held since 2003. And state Sen. Ken Paxton, after billing himself as the second-coming of Cruz, is favored in the GOP attorney general runoff against veteran state Rep. Dan Branch.
LAST DAYS OF DEWHURST?
It has been a tough couple of years for a man who was once a powerful force in Texas politics. As recently as 2012, the millionaire energy mogul from Houston had what the mainstream Texas GOP considered a solidly conservative record as head of the state Senate and was the establishment’s lock to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Then Cruz sprung his upset. Dewhurst eventually finished a distant second in a four-way race to keep his job in March. He appeared to struggle to make up ground before the runoff — despite pumping $5 million of his own fortune into his campaign. Dewhurst had promised to retire after one more term, but he may be headed home far sooner than that.
Will a candidate who wants to impeach the sitting Democratic president win the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in Texas? Kesha Rogers, who is allied with frequent presidential candidate and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, has been so vocal about calling for Barack Obama’s impeachment that the Texas Democratic Party has urged its supporters not to vote for her. David Alameel, a Dallas dental mogul who has been endorsed by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis, fell just short of a majority of the votes cast in a crowded field during the March primary.
Though Paxton is favored to beat Branch in the Republican race to succeed Attorney General Greg Abbott, the vote could be closer than expected since state regulators recently fined Paxton $1,000 for failing to disclose his work as an investment adviser. For the Democrats, meanwhile, the land commissioner runoff could be close between country singer and humorist Kinky Friedman and Jim Hogan, an unknown cattle farmer from Cleburne.
CAN HALL HANG ON?
At 91, Congressman Ralph Hall is the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House and is seeking what he says will be his final term in his northeast Texas-based seat. But he has been forced into the first runoff of his congressional career by a challenger barely half his age. Former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, 48, is backed by top tea party groups and says Hall has become too cozy with the GOP establishment. But Hall, who has won personal endorsements from tea party favorites including Rep. Michelle Bachman, bristles at the notion he’s not conservative enough for the modern voter.