Tea Party Texas

In Texas, the lieutenant governor is almost as powerful as the governor, serving at the head of the state Senate, which requires 21 out of 31 votes to bring anything to the floor. Quite simply, if the lieutenant governor doesn’t like your bill, it is dead.

National political writers miss this important point as they autopsy the meaning of the Texas Republican primary elections.

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Incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), who was shellacked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) two years ago, got whipped badly in the primary earlier this week, with 73 percent of the primary voters rejecting his bid for renomination. For all intents and purposes, David Dewhurst is a political dead man walking in the May runoff election against state Sen. Dan Patrick, an outspoken Tea Party candidate. In fact, Patrick beat Dewhurst 41 percent to 28 percent in the multi-candidate race, needing only to pick up a little more of the anti-incumbent vote to dethrone the sitting King of the Senate.

While national pundits look at federal races where Tea Party challengers were outspent by millions of dollars, those who actually understand the political workings in the state know that Dewhurst’s poor showing is a huge victory for Cruz and his supporters. 

The extremely robust primary showing of a strong Tea Party supporter and his likely election to the lieutenant governor's chair, combined with the primary defeat of the most liberal Republican state senator in Austin, gives Cruz and his supporter’s control of a crucial lever of power. 

On the other hand, the Democrats' race to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has fallen into disarray as the well-funded chosen candidate, David Alameel, has been forced into a runoff with Lyndon LaRouche supporter Kesha Rogers, who opposes ObamaCare and advocates for the impeachment of President Obama. Rogers reportedly raised and spent less than $100,000 for the entire primary campaign, yet she managed to ride Obama’s unfavorability with Texas Democrats to second place on the primary ballot with 22 percent of the vote.

Somehow the national media, which goes into a frenzy of delight at the mere mention of Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, missed the significance that an African-American Democratic woman calling for Obama’s impeachment achieved a large measure of electoral success.  The runoff should be a major dose of embarrassment for the turn-Texas-blue movement.

Overall, the primary proves that for those who believe all politics flows from Washington, D.C., the victories of Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) were the headlines. But for those who actually understand the way Texas politics works, a Patrick victory in the lieutenant governor race will for the first time give a Tea Party supporter at least partial custody of the keys to the Texas government Ferrari. 

That's hardly the rebuke that outsiders choose to report.

As Paul Harvey used to say: "And now you know the rest of the story."

Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government. Contact him at rmanning@getliberty.org.

Updated at 3:25 p.m. to correct the name of state Sen. Dan Patrick.

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