August 1, 2012 in Nation/World

Tea party favorite wins GOP runoff

Santorum, Palin backed Cruz in Texas Senate race
Will Weissert Associated Press
 

Cruz
(Full-size photo)

AUSTIN, Texas – Tea party darling Ted Cruz convincingly defeated the Republican establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in Texas’ runoff election Tuesday, capturing the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as fiercely conservative voters shook one of America’s reddest states to its political core.

The race had been closely watched nationally as one of the most-vivid contrasts between the GOP mainstream and grass-roots, conservative activists. But as results began to pour in, it turned out to be no contest. Cruz completed the upset by grabbing advantages 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 dog days of summer.

Overseeing the state Senate from the powerful lieutenant governor’s post since 2003, Dewhurst was long considered a slam dunk in his race with Cruz, the former state solicitor general and 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 is still widely popular back home. He also had a $200 million personal fortune he could dip into and did, loaning his Senate campaign at least $24.5 million.

But Cruz has a fiery stage presence that made tea party supporters across the state swoon, and received millions from national, conservative organizations that targeted Dewhurst as too moderate.

Even though the lieutenant governor oversaw some of the most-conservative state legislative sessions in Texas history and helped speed the passage of laws requiring women to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion and voters to show identification at the polls – he also occasionally compromised with Democratic lawmakers to keep the legislative agenda moving.

Cruz successfully painted his opponent as wishy-washy – even though they actually disagree on little, either politically or ideologically. The 41-year-old Cruz had never run for political office but bolstered his political credentials arguing in front of the state Supreme Court as the longest-serving solicitor general in Texas history.

Looking exhausted and shaken, Dewhurst told a small crowd in another part of Houston, “We got beat up a little bit but we never gave up.”

Meanwhile, former Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler easily bested perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough to capture his party’s nomination and face Cruz in November’s general election, but Cruz begins that race the overwhelming favorite.

Sadler said that he stood “alone as the only nominee of a major political party in Texas because the Texas Republican Party has been hijacked by the tea party.”

Cruz was endorsed by ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, radio talk show host Glen Beck, U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Kentucky’s Rand Paul, as well as former GOP presidential hopeful and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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