Ted Cruz Wins Texas GOP Senate Runoff

As expected, Tea Party backed insurgent candidate Ted Cruz has defeated Texas Lt. Governor Ted Dewhurst to win the Republican nomination to replace Kay Bailey Hutchinson in the United States Senate:

Former state solicitor general Ted Cruz, a tea party-aligned conservative once regarded as a long-shot candidate, has won the Republican runoff in Texas, where he will be the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in the November election. The Associated Press has called the race for Cruz over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz will be a heavy favorite over Democratic nominee Paul Sadler, who also won a runoff on Tuesday.

Cruz, an emerging conservative star whose father emigrated to the United States from Cuba, has drawn comparisons to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and has been lauded by national conservative political pundits and groups for over a year. His victory is a major blow to the Republican establishment in Texas, which lined up squarely behind Dewhurst. It’s also a victory for the tea party and national conservatives who lined up behind Cruz even when a surprise win appeared unlikely.

Cruz’s win is a remarkable political feat and arguably the Senate upset of the cycle. In early 2011, when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her intention to retire, observers regarded Dewhurst as a virtual shoo-in to take her place in the upper chamber. Dewhurst is very well-known in Texas, enjoys immense personal wealth, and enlisted the help of Gov. Rick Perry’s top political hands. Perry endorsed Dewhurst during the campaign.

But in a multiple-candidate primary election that also included former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert on May 29, Dewhurst was unable to cross the crucial 50 percent threshold, managing just 45 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 34 percent.

Once the two-month overtime period was triggered, Cruz seized on new momentum. He outraised Dewhurst 3-1 in the first third of July and brought in an impressive cast of national conservative stars to stump with him during the closing weekend of the campaign. Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who both endorsed Cruz’s candidacy, campaigned for him Friday in the Houston area.

I didn’t follow this race all too closely until the last several weeks, but it seems pretty clear to me what happened here. This wasn’t a Tea Party v. “moderate Republican” battle, for one thing. Dewhurst is pretty much nearly as conservative as Cruz on the issues that I would think would matter to conservatives and Tea Party activists. The primary difference, I think, is that Dewhursrt was representing the political establishment while Cruz, although he had served in state government in the past was the outsider. That, combined with the anti-establishment meme that still remains strong withing Tea Party ranks was likely a huge benefit for Cruz. The interesting question for the future of Texas politics is what it means that the guy who has been Governor for ten years endorsed lost this race means for the future of the Texas GOP.

As I said earlier this week, and absent some really massive mistakes on the part of Cruz’s campaign in the General Election, it seems fairly clear that the next Senator from Texas will be Ted Cruz. Where he goes from there is an entirely different question.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Ted Cruz does not appear to be your standard tea party loony toon. I think you are right, Dewhursrt was representing the political establishment, which is not popular these days.

  2. Herb says:

    Good for him…..but I’m done with this “Tea Party” business. There is no “Tea Party.” They’re just Republicans.

    I know, I know, Republicans use the “Tea Party” –which only exists as a tradename for some GOP-supporting PACs- to separate the “good” Republicans from the “bad” Republicans, but I think it’s pretty egotistical of them to expect the rest of us to indulge their delusions.

  3. Scott says:

    Things are just going to go from bad to worse here in Texas. The right has been running things into the ground for years. At the local level (here in San Antonio) there are good things happening. If we can just keep the state from interfering…

  4. Septimius says:

    Wait a second. I thought the Tea Party was just a bunch of racists who are angry about having a black man in the White House. You’re trying to tell me that they supported the Hispanic guy over the white guy? I’m not buying it. It’s more likely that Cruz used some super-secret code words to trick all those redneck Republicans into thinking that Dewhurst is “The Other.”

  5. Boyd says:

    …absent some really massive mistakes on the part of Cruz’s campaign in the General Election, it seems fairly clear that the next Senator from Texas will be Ted Cruz.

    I disagree. I don’t even think the old “dead girl or live boy” story could derail Cruz at this point.

  6. Scott says:

    @Boyd: I agree. Democrats are just cowering, abused spouses at this point. It’ll be a generation before this state returns to sanity.

  7. EddieInCA says:


    You’re trying to tell me that they supported the Hispanic insane guy over the white sane guy? I’m not buying it. It’s more likely that Cruz used some super-secret code words psychotic babble to trick all those redneck Republicans lemmings into thinking that Dewhurst is “The Other Devil.”

    Fixed that for you.

  8. rudderpedals says:

    Who is the Dem opponent? Is there a Dem in the race?

  9. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @rudderpedals: Yes. Paul Sadler is the sacrificial lamb this time around. He was in the TX Lege for quite a while but left a few years back.

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    As you noted Doug, there were miniscule policy differences between the two men, despite Cruz’s attempt to portray Dewhurst as a moderate. The main thing that I think this runoff reveals is that Perry / Dewhurt’s time in Austin will likely end in 2014. There are too many “R”s chomping at the bit here that have been waiting upwards of a decade for a sign of weakness.

    Between #PerryFAIL last fall and Dewhurt’s current ignominy, there’s blood in the water. Dewhurst already has a declared 2014 primary opponent for Lt. Governor in Jerry Patterson, the current Land Commissioner, and an undeclared opponent in State Comptroller Susan Combs. And Greg Abbott, the current Attorney General, started making noises about running for Governor last year once Perry announced his presidential bid.

    I should note that all of the challengers noted hold current elected statewide office in Texas. That seems to be the pattern that Dems can’t break – the easiest way to become Gov or Lt. Gov is to hold one of the dozen or so other elected statewide offices. And those are all held by Rs – at least in part because we have Party Line voting on Texas ballots. The Ds strong players are all in the Lege or are Mayors of large cities, which makes them poor competitors in a state with a half dozen large media markets.