While the three tea party incumbents who were being challenged by establishment politicians won big, liberal-leaning Republicans closest to House Speaker Joe Straus lost in race after race this week.
Defeated Straus incumbents include State Rep. Lance Gooden in House District 4, Diane Patrick in HD94, Linda Harper-Brown in HD105, Bennett Ratliff in HD115, and Ralph Sheffield in HD55.
Straus lieutenant Jim Keffer of HD60 did manage to hold on to his seat, but only after spending more than $750,000 and losing in the population center of the district.
The key defensive races in the Texas House were those of State Reps. Charles Perry of Lubbock, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and Matt Schaefer of Tyler. All three were heavily challenged by big-monied, Austin-based lobby interests. Their win-margins ranged from Perry’s 75% to Schaefer’s 61%.
Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life said that her group’s top priority was seeing the re-election of the three conservative incumbents.
“We are pleased that voters have rejected moderates and trusted Texas Right to Life’s recommendations on who the true pro-life leaders are in the state,” she told Breitbart Texas.
Stickland and Schaefer were the biggest targets of the Austin political establishment. Along with other Austin-based lobby organizations, the Texas Association of Realtors spent heavily, and unsuccessfully, seeking to unseat both of the conservatives on behalf of the Straus leadership team.
Stickland won with 65% of the vote, while Schaefer earned 61%.
In open-seat races, conservatives saw wins on both sides of the state. In Galveston County, insurance agent Wayne Faircloth beat establishment-backed Bob Senter 66%-34%. In the Republican-stronghold of Montgomery County, Mark Keough beat Bruce Tough by 14 points. Meanwhile, Odessa Republican Brooks Landgraf beat Austin Keith, 58 to 41 percent.
In House District 4, Stuart Spitzer defied the odds by beating Gooden 51%-49% in a re-match from 2012. Most of the state’s conservative groups had stayed out of the race, despite Gooden being a close ally of Straus.
“Stuart Spitizer is proof that hard work and determination really wins the day,” said Tony McDonald, the general counsel for Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “He understood that conservatives win when they don’t give up or take a pass.”
Texas Right to Life had strongly supported Molly White’s challenge to Sheffield in central Texas’ HD55. Sheffield had been a prominent supporter of Straus, and had received endorsements from “Texas Alliance for Life” and other establishment-friendly entities.
Distinguished Army veteran Tony Tinderholt had the biggest margin of victory for a conservative challenger by defeating liberal-leaning Diane Patrick by an 11-point margin in Tarrant County’s HD94.
The biggest “challenger” win of the night went to Gary VanDeaver over second-term Rep. George Lavender of Texarkana. The incumbent refused to oppose Straus, and carried a “value-added tax” scheme favored by failed Comptroller candidate Debra Medina. He never connected with conservatives, while often seeming to stand close to Speaker Straus.
Follow Michael Quinn Sullivan on Twitter @MQSullivan