Five things the Texas primary taught us

March 5, 2014

The Texas primary is in the books. Let the analysis begin!


Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

We've gone through the results and considered what they mean. Here are the five things we learned from the primaries in the Lone Star State.

1. Tea party candidates did better in state races than federal contests

Tea party challengers had a whole lot of nothing to be excited home about in congressional races. As expected, Sen. John Cornyn (R) cruised to victory against Rep. Steve Stockman and a handful of other gadfly challengers. And, Rep. Pete Sessions (R) made quick work of Katrina Pierson, who was supported by FreedomWorks. Despite grumbling about his record, tea party activists never found someone capable of seriously competing with the Senate's second-ranking Republican. And Pierson fell flat despite catching the eye of national activists.

There was a different story playing out in the races for attorney general and lieutenant governor. In the former, state Sen. Ken Paxton (R) led the pack and advanced to a runoff. Paxton emulated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and will run one-on-one against state Rep. Dan Branch, an establishment Republican. Another establishment Republican -- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst -- will have to endure a runoff of his own against conservative radio host and state legislator Dan Patrick, who got more votes than Dewhurst.

2. Democrats have a new headache

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) cruised to her party's nomination for governor. But the same can't be said of Davis's preferred candidate for Senate, dentist David Alameel (D). Alameel was unable to avoid a runoff against Kesha Rogers, a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte who wants to impeach President Obama and repeal the health-care law. Two more months of a contested campaign and attention on LaRouche's out-of-the- mainstream views is not what Democrats need as they try to build moderate support for Davis and continue the longer term push to turn Texas purple.

3. The one swing district in Texas looks better today for Democrats 

There is only one true battleground district in Texas, and it's the sprawling 23rd, which encompasses a large area in the southwestern part of the state. Former congressman Franciso "Quico" Canseco (R) wants a rematch with Rep. Pete Gallego (D) in the majority Hispanic district. But he hit a road bump Tuesday when he was forced into a runoff against Will Hurd (R), a former CIA officer. That means nearly three more months of the Republican candidates expending resources and hitting each other. That's good news for Gallego.

4. The Bush family is back in mix in Texas 

George P. Bush easily won the GOP primary for land commissioner, a powerful post in Texas. He has the inside track in the November general election given the state's conservative tilt. Bush is the nephew of former president George W. Bush and the son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush. While the former president has largely avoided the spotlight since leaving office, the Bush name is bound to get more attention in the coming months with George P. Bush's campaign and speculation over whether Jeb Bush will run for president ramps up as 2016 draws near.

5. The end of World War II vets in Congress could be near

Rep. Ralph Hall (R) was forced into a runoff Tuesday against former U.S. attorney John Ratcliffe. Hall, 90, is the oldest member of Congress. He's also one of last two remaining World War II veterans on Capitol Hill. The other is Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who is retiring. Hall will be a tough out, but Ratcliffe has money to spend. He pulled nearly 30 percent of the vote in round one of the vote. The runoff is May 27.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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