HOUSTON, Texas–The Tea Party is alive and well and is firmly established as a dominant force in Texas Republican politics. Victories by Tea Party favorites nearly swept the statewide Republican runoff election.
Establishment candidates like State Representative Dan Branch and State Senator Bob Deuell faded quietly in defeat while strongly supported Tea Party candidates like Sen. Dan Patrick, Sen. Ken Paxton, and former State Rep. Sid Miller sailed to easy victories in their statewide races.
The trend of Tea Party victories continued down the ballot as well. In Senate District 10 (currently held by Sen. Wendy Davis), Tea Party favorite Konni Burton won her race with a 20 point margin over the more moderate Mark Shelton. In a report by Merrill Hope, Burton told Breitbart Texas, “We are so excited. We’ve been working for this for a year. Our message has resonated with the voters and we couldn’t be more pleased.” Burton was also supported by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz who, in 2012, proved the Tea Party and grassroots activism can overcome insurmountable odds to bring victory for conservative principles.
In spite of viscous attacks from his moderate opponent, Tea Party faithful’s stood strong beside Sen. Ken Paxton and delivered a victory that was never in doubt after early voting numbers showed a Paxton lead of 24 percent. Throughout the night, the numbers increased and Paxton won the nomination for Texas Attorney General with a 27 point margin of victory over Dan Branch.
And, of course, Sen. Dan Patrick’s victory in the race for Lt. Governor over David Dewhurst with a margin of 30 percent sent yet another strong statement of Tea Party strength. Rice University political scientist Mark Jones told the Austin American-Statesman, “Patrick’s win signals an important shift to the right within the Texas GOP, both electorally and legislatively. The Texas Senate under Patrick’s leadership will be a much more partisan and conservative institution than it has been during the past 12 years under Dewhurst.” Patrick reiterated his pledge to not appoint Democrats to half of the senate committee chairmanships during his victory speech in Houston on election night.
The Tea Party movement did not just strike state level races. In the race for U.S. Congressional District 4, the nation’s most senior Member of Congress, 91-year-old, 18-term Ralph Hall was defeated by John Ratcliffe a former U.S. Attorney. According to an email received by Breitbart Texas from Texas Election Source, Publisher Jeff Blaylock, Hall is the first incumbent Congressman to be defeated in a runoff election since 1996 when Ron Paul defeated Congressman Greg Laughlin.
The national news media has expressed a fascination with the Tea Party’s impact in Texas politics. An article by Reuters writer Marice Richter states, “The Tea Party win over established politicians boosts the stature of U.S. Senator Cruz, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, and returns some luster to the Tea Party movement after several candidates were defeated by mainstream Republicans in primaries in other states last week.”
International Business Times cited another Reuters article which quotes Republican strategist Bill Miller saying, “I do think the Republican Party could be eclipsed by the Tea Party here.”
Not all Republicans think this shift is a good thing. Bill Hammond, a Republican who heads up the powerful Texas Association of Business told Fox News Latino, You’ve seen some very solid conservative candidates defeated in the Texas Republican primary, unfortunately,” Hammond said. “It’s absolutely a concern more and more for us.”
Also, the Tea Party endorsement is not an automatic checkmark in the victory column. The Tea Party coattails could not extend far enough down the ballot to help Railroad Commission candidate, former State Rep. Wayne Christian, overcome the energy industry business experience and qualifications of Houston area businessman and engineer Ryan Sitton. Sitton won his race over Christian by a margin of 57 to 43 percent.
The Blaylock Texas Election Source email quoted above states that Sitton now holds the record for the biggest non-judicial race come-from-behind runoff victory having come from 12 points behind after the primary to 14 points ahead after the runoff. The previous record was held by Tea Party favorite Texas Cruz who trailed Dewhurst by 10.5 percent after the first round and won the runoff by 13.6 percent.
In one of the narrower Tea Party victories, State Senator Bob Deuell was defeated by the Tea Party supported candidate Bob Hall by 300 votes. Breitbart Texas reported Sen. Deuell’s alleged attempt to censor Texas Right to Life by threatening radio stations in an attempt to get them to remove ads that spoke about his record on end of life issues. The ploy, carried out a few days before the start of early voting nearly worked. But as Breitbart Texas reported, the stations only held the add off the air for thirty-six hours.
After some of the very negative ads that have been run in the various statewide campaigns, traditional Republican groups and Tea Party groups will need to find a way to mend fences in order to effectively be able to challenge what will most likely be well organized and funded campaigns by Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte.
Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX