AM Update
8:33 am
Wed May 30, 2012

AM Update: Primary Results, Runoffs, and What's Next

Texas Primaries Results

Last night’s Texas primaries resolved several high profile contests, while sending other races to a runoff.

Near the top of the Republican ballot, beneath Mitt Romney’s win in the Presidential primary, the race for U.S. Senate carries on. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst came up short of a plurality, meaning he will face off against former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz in a runoff.

U.S. Rep.  Lamar Smith easily prevailed in his primary, despite opposition from Internet activists.  And on the Democratic side, longtime Austin U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett won handily in newly drawn Congressional District 35.

At the statehouse, incumbent state senator Jeff Wentworth will face Tea Party-backed Donna Campbell in a Republican runoff. Campbell came in second despite being greatly outspent by the third candidate in the race, Elizabeth Ames Jones.

County races for District Attorney were also closely watched. In Williamson County, challenger Jana Duty defeated longtime Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley for the Republican nomination. And in Travis County, incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg easily bested challenger Charlie Baird.

Runoff elections have been called for July 31.

Elections Challenge Power Dynamic at Capitol

KUT News’ reporting partner the Texas Tribune has a broader look at what last night’s results mean for both chambers of the State Capitol.

In the House of Representatives, the Trib writes that “Election Day was costly for House Speaker Joe Straus:”

In the House, a race for presiding officer has become a regular biennial event. But Tuesday didn't make it any easier for Straus. While voters were still making their choices, Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, announced he will challenge Straus for the job when lawmakers meet next year.

And then the election lost Straus some of the people he hoped to rely on in such a contest. The ranks of the vanquished include some chairmen: Public Education's Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands; Licensing & Administrative Procedures' Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Lumberton; and Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake, chairwoman of the Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee.

On the Senate side, the Trib notes four senators are retiring, likely to be replaced by more conservative members. That, plus Jeff Wentworth’s looming runoff and Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis re-election battle this November, means as many as six seats could change.

Those new senators — whether they number four, five or six — could be important right from the start when the Legislature convenes next year. If Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wins his bid for U.S. Senate — no sure thing, because he faces a runoff with Ted Cruz — the Senate would elect a presiding officer from within its ranks to replace him. It's a Republican Senate now and probably will be again, but if Dewhurst moves on, his date of departure is important.

Primaries Reveal Divisions in State GOP

For another analysis of last night’s results, we turn to the Austin American-Statesman , which noted competing interests among Texas’ dominant political force, the Republican Party:

The primary elections for the Texas House revealed conflicting interests among state Republicans, said James Henson, a lecturer at the University of Texas and director of the Texas Politics Project. Specifically, he said, the fight pits established Republicans who run the Legislature against the most conservative elements of the party.

"You're seeing some tensions between those two facets of the Republican Party," Henson said. And since they can't blame the Democrats, the party's most conservative voices have turned on some members of the governing wing of the party, he said.

The Statesman adds that Straus successfully defended his Bexar County seat from Tea Party-affiliated candidate Matt Beebe. In a statement, Straus credited his win to abiding by “Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment” – that Republicans should speak ill of fellow Republicans.