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Sen. John Cornyn, Wendy Davis win Texas primary tests

10:18 AM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn turned back a more conservative challenger for renomination in a primary election Tuesday, and Democrat Wendy Davis became the first female gubernatorial nominee in the state since former Gov. Ann Richards almost a quarter century ago.

Cornyn, the No. 2 GOP leader in the U.S. Senate, defeated Rep. Steve Stockman, a firebrand who spent little money. Stockman congratulated and endorsed Cornyn in a tweet after the results were clear.

It was one of several races being watched as a test of Tea Party political strength in the state.

"We wish Senator Cornyn best of luck in November and urge everyone to vote for, volunteer for and support the whole Texas GOP ticket,'' Stockman tweeted on an account established for the campaign.

Cornyn is considered by many among the chamber's most conservative members but wasn't endorsed by Texas' junior senator, conservative firebrand Ted Cruz. He still trounced seven challengers, and Stockman tweeted his concession a bare 10 minutes after the polls closed.

Five little-known Democrats were vying for the nomination to challenge Cornyn in November. It was unclear as Tuesday's polls closed if any candidate had captured a majority of the vote or a May 27 runoff would be required.

Davis, a Fort Worth state senator, will face Republican state Attorney General Greg Abbott in the general election. Both clinched their party's nomination Tuesday night. Neither faced a competitive primary. Gov. Rick Perry is not seeking re-election after a record 14 years in office.

Davis, 50, became a national Democratic star last summer with a nearly 13-hour filibuster over new abortion restrictions. Her fundraising outpaced Abbott in the last half of 2013, but she's still considered a heavy underdog. Democrats haven't won a statewide race since Richards won in 1990.

The fortunes of another Bush advanced too.

George P. Bush, 37, son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and whose uncle and grandfather were presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, easily defeated businessman David Watts to secure the Republican nomination for state land commissioner.

Bush becomes the overwhelming favorite in November against former El Paso Democratic Mayor John Cook. Bush raised $3.5-plus million - an unheard of sum for land commissioner, who administers state-owned lands and mineral resources.

"This is a historically tumultuous election in Texas," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "There will be runoffs between business friendly, institutional Republicans and Tea Party Republicans ... that will highlight either the continued strength or the beginning of the weakness of the Tea Party in Texas."

In a U.S. House race, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions - a former leader of the party's campaign committee - was renominated over Tea Party leader Katrina Pierson, who racked up key endorsements for the Dallas-area congressional seat but has been underfunded.

Kinky Friedman, a novelist and country music performer, will face a runoff for the Democratic nomination for state agriculture commissioner. He and Jim Hogan were the top vote-getters but neither got more than 50% of the vote in a three-way race. Friedman angered many Democrats when he ran for governor as an independent in 2006.

Perry, who was not on the ballot, may still have the broadest impact on the election. His decision to leave office after a record 14 years as governor has set off a free-for-all for statewide offices including governor, attorney general and comptroller.


Texas Democrats are mobilizing behind Davis and registering voters in a bid to capitalize on the Lone Star state's changing demographics. Political experts say Davis' quest is a long shot and it could be years before Democrats can be truly competitive in statewide races.

"Winning the Texas Republican primary is tantamount to winning the general election at the statewide level," said Mark Jones, chairman of the political science department at Rice University in Houston. "In Texas, it's extremely unlikely anybody who wins a Republican primary will not be elected in the fall due to the strong Republican advantage in the state combined with straight-ticket voting."


In the Senate race, Stockman refused to appear at campaign events and answer questions from voters, which prompted a coalition of some Tea Party groups to endorse a rival conservative challenger, Dwayne Stovall, in the Senate primary. On the Democratic side, businessman David Alameel was expected to defeat four rivals for the party's nomination.

The other notable primary for Congress in the state is about seniority.

GOP Rep. Ralph Hall, the oldest member of Congress at the age of 90, fell short of 50% of the vote and will face a runoff May 27 in the 4th Congressional District based in Texarkana and Rockwall. Hall, who has vowed this would be his last campaign,will face John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney who has made Hall's age and 17-term tenure an issue.

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