Tuesday night’s results made for a very good morning for conservatives in Texas.
A few fast facts about last-night’s Republican primary:
- The most liberal Republican in the Texas Senate lost.
- Conservative ranks in the Senate are swelling.
- Every House conservative won re-election (with re-enforcements coming from the open-seat races).
- House incumbents affiliated with Speaker Joe Straus lost big.
- Statewide races saw the TFR-backed candidates earning commanding leads going into run-offs.
In the statewide races, each of our endorsed candidates has the strong lead going into the anticipated run-offs. After being in statewide office since 1998, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst found 72% percent of GOP primary voters going against him last night. While his 28% was strong enough to make it into the run-off, conservative State Sen. Dan Patrick’s is in the driver’s seat having earned 41% of the vote.
In the Attorney General race, conservative Ken Paxton takes an 11-point lead into the run-off against liberal-leaning Dan Branch. Glenn Hegar came within a couple votes of winning outright, but will face Harvey Hilderbran in the run-off. Sid Miller has a strong lead over Tommy Merritt in the Agriculture race (establishment lawyer Eric Opelia didn’t even place, despite having spent the entire Ag field combined).
And all three of the conservative Supreme Court justices — Nathan Hecht, Phil Johnson and Jeff Brown — fended off challengers in the primary who were largely funded by Democrats and trial lawyers.
Our greatest hope for Tuesday was to see our establishment-opposed conservative incumbents win re-election. And they delivered crushing wins! Charles Perry in Lubbock got better than 73% of the vote, Jonathan Stickland earned 65% and Matt Schaefer garnered 61%.
The Austin lobby crowd went in big against Stickland and Schaefer, with the Texas Association of Realtors spending heavily against them. These races send a clear message to moderates and big-spenders alike: conservatives win and win big.
Some very clear lessons can be drawn from the senatorial races.
Last night saw Don Huffines beat liberal Republican John Carona in Dallas County’s Senate District 16 contest. Huffines didn’t waste time, and started his campaign swinging. That victory significantly shifts the Texas Senate, as will the run-off election in SD2 where incumbent Bob Deuell goes into an unexpected race against conservative Bob Hall.
Similarly, Konni Burton takes a strong lead into the SD10 primary run-off. As a grassroots activist, Burton’s showing is important on its own. But even more so, because SD10 is the seat that had been mis-represented by Wendy Davis.
An interesting takeaway is found in SD31, where liberal Republican Kel Seliger was challenged by Mike Canon. The challenger entered the race late and didn’t really start drawing distinctions with Seliger until very late in the contest. Seliger won early voting, but Canon won on election day. It is fair to say that Canon is very strongly poised to win the next time he tries.
The senate lessons: 1) start early, 2) come out swinging, 3) and engage with the grassroots.
House District 81, an open-seat nestled inside SD31 and based in Odessa, saw conservative Brooks Landgraf win a decisive victory over the heavily establishment-backed Austin Keith.
In House District 60, incumbent Jim Keffer – one of Speaker Joe Straus’ closest allies – did hold on to his seat despite a very strong challenge by conservative Cullen Crisp. Make no mistake: incumbency is powerful, but in order to win Keffer outspent Crisp by almost 3-to-1. There even were reports on election day that lobbyists from Austin were camped out in front of polling places handing out free donuts to voters!
Even still, Keffer’s re-election numbers were far below those of other challenged incumbents.
Indeed, Keffer’s “win” might be best considered “Pyrrhic,” as the resources sent to him translated into big losses elsewhere for Team Straus. By marshaling forces for Keffer, Straus lost Bennett Ratliff, Ralph Sheffield, Linda Harper-Brown, Diane Patrick and Lance Gooden. They were each soundly defeated by Matt Rinaldi, Molly White, Rodney Anderson, Tony Tinderholt and Stuart Spitzer, respectively.
We’ll be writing a lot more about the takeaways from the individual statewide and legislative races in the coming days.