AUSTIN, Texas (TheBlaze/AP) — A tea party leader claimed the Republican nomination for the powerful Texas office of lieutenant governor in primary election runoffs Tuesday night, signaling a further push to the right in the nation’s largest conservative state.
Further, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, at 91 the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House, was ousted Tuesday in the Texas Republican runoff by a candidate backed by conservative groups.
Here are five things to know in the Republican and Democratic runoffs in Texas:
TEA PARTY TAKEOVER
The tea party still rules Texas. In an otherwise humbling election year for tea party challengers across the U.S., conservative insurgents in the Lone Star State keep winning like it’s 2012. None were bigger than fiery conservative talk radio host Dan Patrick, the tea party caucus founder in the Texas Legislature, ousting longtime Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a symbolic signal of GOP restlessness. Anti-establishment Republicans also were favored in key statehouse runoffs, leaving Republicans poised to push Texas even further right on abortion, gun rights and spending come 2015.
Just two years ago, Dewhurst seemed a lock to replace retiring U.S. Senate Kay Bailey Hutchison. Now Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s sidekick for the past 12 years is being shoved out the door after a second loss to an outspent tea party underdog in as many years. Spending about $20 million of his own fortune against Ted Cruz in 2012 and another $5 million against Patrick this time around couldn’t buy Dewhurst a perception among Texas GOP voters as anything but a mainstream Republican who’s grown too entrenched.
DEMOCRATS DODGE DILEMMA
Wendy Davis’ high-profile run for governor has made this an unusually visible election year for Texas Democrats, and they averted embarrassment by not nominating a U.S. Senate candidate who wants to impeach President Barack Obama. Kesha Rogers, who’s allied with frequent presidential candidate and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, lost to Dallas dental mogul David Alameel after forcing a surprising runoff in March. The Texas Democratic Party urged voters to reject Rogers and nominate Alameel to be its heavy underdog to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November.
HALL CAN’T HANG ON
At 91, Congressman Ralph Hall is the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House and was seeking what would have been his final term in his northeast Texas-based seat. However, 48-year-old former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe was able to paint Hall as too cozy with the GOP establishment after 34 years in office. He forced the incumbent into his first runoff in 17 terms in the House, then won it decisively.
Ratcliffe received support from several national conservative groups and won the endorsements of tea party favorites, like Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.). He was also endorsed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“I just got whipped and got beat,” Hall told supporters in his hometown of Rockwall, where he once had a brush with notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde while working in a pharmacy as a boy.
PERRY NON GRATA
Rick Perry was out of sight and out of mind in his last Republican primary as Texas governor. He only endorsed in one major race – Texas agriculture commissioner, one of his old jobs – and his name was seldom uttered on the campaign trail by GOP candidates up and down the ballot. If that sounds like Texas Republicans are looking to the future after 14 years under Perry, the feeling is mutual: Perry is still weighing another presidential run in 2016.