AUSTIN, TEXAS — Tea party darling Ted Cruz convincingly defeated the Republican establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in Texas’ runoff election Tuesday, capturing the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as fiercely conservative voters shook one of America’s reddest states to its political core.
The race had been closely watched nationally as one of the nation’s most-vivid contrasts between the GOP mainstream and grass-roots, conservative activists. But as results began to pour in, it turned out to be no contest.
Cruz grabbed early leads in key cities around the state where Dewhurst had once enjoyed stronger name recognition, fundraising and political organization just weeks earlier.
Overseeing the state Senate from the powerful lieutenant governor’s post since 2003, Dewhurst was long considered a slam-dunk in his race with Cruz, the former state solicitor general and son of a Cuban immigrant.
Dewhurst had the endorsement of much of Texas’ Republican mainstream, including Gov. Rick Perry, who despite his failed run for president was still widely popular back home. He also had a $200 million personal fortune he could dip into at will.
But Cruz has a fiery stage presence that made tea party supporters across the state swoon, and received millions from national, conservative organizations which targeted Dewhurst as too moderate.
Even though the lieutenant governor oversaw some of the most-conservative legislative sessions in Texas history and helped speed the passage of laws requiring women to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion and voters to show identification at the polls, he also occasionally compromised with Democratic lawmakers.
Meanwhile, former Democratic state Rep. Paul Saddler easily bested perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough to capture his party’s nomination and face Cruz in November’s general election.