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Tea Party Conservatives Win Top GOP Runoff Contests

After 16 years in statewide office, Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst lost a bitterly fought battle to state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston. In the GOP attorney general race, state Sen. Ken Paxton prevailed over state Rep. Dan Branch despite questions over his ethics.

Tea Party-backed candidate state Sen. Dan Patrick became the Republican candidate for Texas lieutenant governor on Tuesday, soundly defeating three-time incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a bitterly fought runoff election. 

"For everyone watching tonight, if you love America, the Constitution, Texas, free markets, the Second Amendment and the liberty that comes from God, welcome to the grassroots of the Republican Party," Patrick told a cheering crowd in Houston. 

Patrick cruised to victory, beating Dewhurst by more than 30 percentage points.  

“We were prepared and we worked hard and we’ve been tested,” Patrick said. 

He will face state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, on Nov. 4 in the general election. 

“Some Democrats have said they want me to be the nominee,” Patrick said. “Well, they’ve got me, and I’m coming.”

Van de Putte said she looks forward to November. 

“Like Texas business owners, and Texans across this entire state, I know that it’s time that politicians like Dan Patrick put their toxic rhetoric to rest,” Van de Putte said in a statement. 

The hotly contested lieutenant governor's race was marked by multiple attacks. Toward the end of the campaign, Patrick, a Houston radio host, was criticizing Dewhurst and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson over the recent release of mental health records showing that Patrick was hospitalized in the 1980s for depression. Patterson, a former candidate in the race who later endorsed Dewhurst, distributed the documents to reporters. Dewhurst had denied any involvement with the records release.

Patrick pummeled Dewhurst in what appeared to be a repeat of the incumbent's 2012 loss to Ted Cruz in the primary race for U.S. Senate. Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, beat Dewhurst 57 to 43 percent.

The loss punctuates a 16-year stint in statewide office for Dewhurst.

“You know, I don’t think anyone runs for office unless they think they will win it,” Dewhurst told supporters in Houston on Tuesday. “I wanted to win this election for you.” 

Dewhurst was first elected to political office in 1998 when he became the state land commissioner. In 2002, he won the first of three back-to-back terms as lieutenant governor. 

“The honor I’ve had to serve you all will come to an end in December,” Dewhurst told supporters. “Serving as your lieutenant governor has been the second-best honor other than Tricia saying ‘yes,'” he said of his wife.

Dewhurst, who appeared to tear up during the concession speech, said he told Patrick in a phone call that he would do “whatever [he] could” to help him succeed against Van de Putte. 

“I congratulated him on this victory and wished him the very best,” Dewhurst said.

The political jabbing in the GOP's lieutenant governor battle was nearly matched by the expensive dueling in the party's race for the attorney general nomination.

Tea Party favorite Ken Paxton of McKinney handily won that contest's GOP runoff over state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas.

Paxton's win marked the end of a bitter battle that saw the candidates spent more than $2 million combined on television advertising, attacking each other in the state's four largest media markets.

Paxton, whose conservative credentials were boosted by praise from figures like Cruz, painted Branch as the more liberal candidate. Branch came up short despite a late-game endorsement from former AG candidate Barry Smitherman, who lost in the March GOP primary. Branch had focused on questions about Paxton's ethics after a Texas Tribune investigation found that Paxton had allegedly violated state securities law. Paxton was fined $1,000 and reprimanded by the State Securities Board for failing to register as an investment solicitor.

The Paxton campaign celebrated Tuesday evening after early primary runoff voting numbers showed he had a significant lead.

"I will be honored to serve as the Republican nominee for Texas attorney general and build on General Greg Abbott's legacy of accomplishment," he said.

In November, Paxton will face Democratic candidate Sam Houston and Libertarian Jamie Balagia.

Railroad Commission

Ryan Sitton crushed Wayne Christian in the Republican runoff for a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission, leading by 16 percentage points with more than two-thirds of precincts reporting. The Houston oil and gas engineer outspent Christian by far, but his wide margin of victory over the Tea Party-backed former legislator came as a surprise. In March, Christian won the party’s initial four-way race by 12 points.

“We have a lot of work to do between now and the general election, and I'm committed to working as hard as ever to earn every Texan's vote,” Sitton said in a statement.

Sitton will face Democrat Steve Brown in the general election.  

Agriculture commissioner:

In the Democratic contest for agriculture commissioner, Jim Hogan, a Cleburne farmer and insurance salesman, easily defeated musician and comedian Richard “Kinky” Friedman. Hogan's win came despite his refusal to openly campaign or to accept endorsements.

Hogan, who told The Texas Tribune he was “just making stew” — and not watching the election returns — when informed of his victory, suggested that more candidates should follow his model.

“You don’t raise any money, you leave it to the people, God and everybody else," he said. “It didn’t cost anything. I go on with my life.”

Hogan will face Republican former state Rep. Sid Miller in the general election. Miller defeated Tommy Merritt, a former Longview lawmaker. 

Congress:

In a win that drew national attention, in Congressional District 4, former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe ended the congressional career of Ralph Hall, Congress' oldest member at age 91. Hall drew more than 45 percent of the vote in the primary election, but a slew of Tea Party endorsements in the runoff race gave Ratcliffe early momentum, which he rode to victory on TuesdayRatcliffe faces a pair of third-party candidates in the general election: Libertarian J.P. Raley and independent Kenneth Lee Kammer.

In CD-23, former CIA officer Will Hurd easily defeated former U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco for the chance to take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego in the general election. Canseco represented CD-23 for one term before losing to Gallego.

Former Woodville Mayor Brian Babin bested Ben Streusand, a Houston mortgage banker who had Tea Party support, for the GOP nomination in the southeast Texas-based CD-36. The men were competing to succeed Steve Stockman, who decided to run for U.S. Senate instead of seeking re-election to Congress. Babin faces a Democrat, Michael Cole, and an independent, Timothy Kimbley, in the general election.

Texas Democrats avoided an embarrassing moment at the top of the ticket when dental clinic magnate David Alameel ran away with the U.S. Senate primary. He started the evening with a strong lead over Lyndon LaRouche follower Kesha Rogers and never looked back. Alameel will take on Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November.

Texas Legislature:

After a nail-biting election night, voters sent home incumbent GOP state Sen. Bob Deuell, who lost the runoff election by 300 votes to Tea Party activist Bob Hall. In the general election, Hall will face Libertarian candidate Don Bates.

In the race to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, Tea Party activist Konni Burton defeated former state Rep. Mark Shelton in SD-10 in the Republican runoff. The loss was the second for Shelton in the Tarrant County district. In 2012, he unsuccessfully challenged Davis in her bid for re-election. In the general election, Burton will face Democrat Libby Willis, a community activist.

After reversing a decision to run for railroad commissioner last year, incumbent state Rep. Stefani Carter lost the Republican runoff in HD-102 to Linda Koop, a former Dallas city councilwoman. Koop will square off against Democrat George M. Clayton in November.

After pushing out state Rep. Naomi Gonzalez in the Democratic primary, newcomer César Blanco defeated former state Rep. Norma Chávez in the HD-76 Democratic runoff. Blanco and Libertarian J. Alexandro Lozano will duke it out in November.

In HD-53, being vacated by longtime state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, former Kimble County Judge Andrew Murr defeated attorney Rob Henneke for the GOP nomination. In the general election, Murr will face Libertarian candidate B.W. Holk.

In HD-10, Waxahachie attorney John Wray defeated Tea Party favorite T.J. Fabby in the race to replace outgoing House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts. Wray will be unopposed in the November election.

In HD-108, attorney Morgan Meyer easily defeated Chart Westcott in the GOP race to succeed Branch. He faces Democrat Leigh Bailey in the general election.

Susan Motley defeated fellow attorney Terry Meza in west Dallas County's HD-105. Local Democrats are hopeful Motley will prevail against the Republican candidate, former state Rep. Rodney Anderson, in November. 

In Johnson County’s HD-58, Republican DeWayne Burns, a businessman, defeated construction company owner Philip Eby. Burns will join Democrat Greg Kauffman and Libertarian Jesse Pistokache Jr. on the November ballot.

Republican Will Metcalf, the son of former Conroe Mayor Tommy Metcalf, beat pastor Ted Seago in Montgomery County’s HD-16. Metcalf will face Democratic opponent Michael Hayles Sr. and Libertarian Bob Townsend in November.

Former Collin County Commissioner Matt Shaheen came out ahead in the Republican contest with attorney Glenn Callison in HD-66. The November matchup in that race will feature Shaheen and Libertarian Ian Santorella. 

In Harris County, the GOP runoff for HD-132 ended in favor of Mike Schofield, who will face Democrat Luis Lopez in the general election. Schofield, a former adviser to Gov. Rick Perry, won against Ann Hodge, president of the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce. 

And the GOP runoff for HD-129 was a victory for Dennis Paul, who will run against Democrat John Gay in November. Paul, a business owner, beat local Rotary president Sheryl Berg. 

State Board of Education:

In SBOE District 11, Republican incumbent Patricia "Pat" Hardy defeated Eric Mahroum. Hardy will take on two opponents in the general election, Democrat Nancy Bean and Libertarian Craig Sanders.

In the Democratic SBOE District 13 runoff, Erika Beltran easily defeated Andrea Hilburn. Beltran will face Libertarian candidate Junart Sodoy in November.

Check out our election scoreboard to see Tuesday night's results. And see our election brackets to get an overview of the whole 2014 Texas election cycle and who will face off against whom in November's general election.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/05/28/tea-party-conservatives-win-top-gop-runoff-contest/.

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