Tuesday could be a good day for Tea Party in Texas

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - 1:04pm

They've been few and far between this primary season, but the tea party could rack up high-profile victories on Tuesday in runoff elections in Texas.

And one of them could bring an end to the career of the oldest member of Congress.

The grassroots conservative movement scored one of its biggest wins in the last election cycle in Texas, when the candidate it was backing in the Senate GOP runoff, Ted Cruz, defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Thanks in part to support from Cruz, the tea party remains alive and well in the Lone Star State, and two years later, Dewhurst once again faces defeat at the ballot box.

State Sen. Dan Patrick is considered the favorite in the Republican runoff for lieutenant governor. The talk radio host and former Houston sportscaster and bar owner grabbed 41% of the vote in the March primary, 13 percentage points ahead of Dewhurst, who's poured in millions of his own money into the campaign.

Patrick, who helped found the tea party caucus in the Texas legislature, has appealed to conservatives in part with his hardline stance on illegal immigration.

The winner of the runoff will face Democratic nominee Leticia Van de Putte in November. She's a long time state lawmaker and practicing pharmacist.

In another state-wide race, Texas state Sen. Ken Paxton, who models himself after Cruz is considered the favorite over veteran state Rep. Dan Branch in the GOP primary for attorney general. The winner hopes to succeed Greg Abbott, who's the party's nominee for governor.

"Texas remains a red state with Mitt Romney winning by double digits in 2012. What Ted Cruz proved is that if you run a strong enough race, you can win statewide as a grassroots conservative, even when you are outspent," said Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak, who runs the political blog MustReadTexas.com.

"Tuesday's results will likely deliver strong grassroots conservatives in the offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner, and these candidates can afford to run from the right because the state's political environment doesn't require that they move to the middle in the general election," he added.

Mackowiak, also a consultant for former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, noted the net result of this year's elections is that Texas "will be more conservative in the State House and Senate and among statewide elected officials."

Ratcilffe's running an anti-establishment campaign in the state's 4th Congressional District against 91-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, who was first elected to the House in 1980.

Ratcliff, 48, is calling for "new leadership" and is promising to leave office after eight years. But Hall has the backing of some tea party favorites, including retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

If Hall loses, he'll become the first incumbent member of Congress to go down to defeat this primary season.

There's also some drama for the Democrats. Kesha Rogers -- who calls for President Barack Obama's impeachment and is a supporter of gadfly extremist and perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, reached Tuesday's runoff for the Democratic Senate nomination against David Alameel, a Dallas dental mogul.

Alameel, who's considered the favorite in the runoff, has the backing of the state party. But regardless of who wins the runoff, incumbent John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, is considered the overwhelming favorite in the general election.

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