Texas Primaries: Cruz’in to Victory

by Jessica Taylor August 1, 2012 · 11:27 AM EDT

Former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz won an upset victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Texas GOP Senate runoff Tuesday, signaling a major shift not only in the Lone Star State but for the makeup of the incoming Senate as well.

Though he began as a near-political unknown, Cruz harnessed tea party and conservative support to make it into the runoff with Dewhurst, and his supporters proved the more passionate and committed to turnout in the unprecedented, late July runoff to propel him over the top.

Dewhurst committed significant personal funds to his campaign, but Cruz’s conservative allies, including the Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, jumped in big for him as the race turned increasingly bitter and became symbolic of the growing divide between the establishment and tea party wings of the GOP.

For more on what the Senate runoff meant for future of the GOP, read Stu’s analysis from the day of the race, with recaps of our meetings with the two candidates.

In the most competitive general election House race, national Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief after state Rep. Pete Gallego leapfrogged former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez for the right to take on freshman GOP Rep. Quico Canseco this fall.

Surprisingly, Rodriguez, who lost by 5 points to Canseco in 2010, finished first in the May primary, boosted by strong turnout in his San Antonio base, and nearly narrowly avoided a runoff. National Democrats preferred Gallego, who had proved to be a better fundraiser compared to Rodriguez’s mediocre bank account, though both men’s campaign coffers were severely depleted through the runoff.

Obama just narrowly won this 23rd District in 2008, but Canseco has gained additional advantages for this race after not having to go through such a costly primary and subsequent runoff, and had more than $1 million in the bank as of July 11. We rate this race as Toss Up/Tilt Republican.

Another seat Democrats hope to make competitive is the open 14th District to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Paul (R). While Democrats are optimistic in former Rep. Nick Lampson’s ability to put this seat in play in November, he’ll face a tough task against state Rep. Randy Weber, who won his runoff over Pearland City Councilor Felicia Harris. While Weber’s bank account may be depleted, this is still a Republican district that gave McCain 57 percent of the vote in 2008.

Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams is likely headed to Congress in the new Austin-based 25th District after handily winning his runoff in this solid Republican seat over tea party-backed Wes Riddle.

In the solidly-Democratic new 33rd District, state Rep. Marc Veasey edged out former state Rep. Domingo Garcia and is all but assured a win in November. Though this is a Hispanic majority district, it was Veasey, who is African-American, who coalesced the most support and built upon the lead he had in the first round of balloting.

Attorney Filemon Vela (D) won the new 34th District primary over former congressional aide Denise Saenz Blanchard and, in the new solid Republican 36th, former Rep. Steve Stockman (R) continued an unlikely comeback to win the runoff over financial advisor Stephen Takach, who finished first in the May primary. Both Vela and Stockman will be elected to Congress this fall.