A relatively quiet Tuesday this week, but not in Texas. Runoffs stemming from the March 4 primaries will determine the political futures of two longstanding Republican fixtures: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Rep. Ralph Hall.
Dewhurst is perhaps the more vulnerable of the two. As lieutenant governor — by definition the most powerful position in Lone Star State politics — Dewhurst was always seen as positioning himself for a Senate campaign. In 2012 he jumped into the race to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and was immediately considered the clear frontrunner. He was armed with the strong backing of Gov. Rick Perry and a solid conservative record. But he got ambushed by the tea party and Ted Cruz, who argued he was part of the old guard, in politics for too long, and too willing to work with Democrats. Cruz beat him by 150,000 votes in the runoff, and from then on he was seen as a wounded pol. By March 2014, he couldn’t come within double digits of state Sen. Dan Patrick, who finished a clear first in the primary but failed to clear the 50% threshold. Patrick, a strong critic of illegal immigration, is favored to finish him off today.
By the way, Patrick endorsed Dewhurst over Cruz in 2012.
In the 4th CD, Hall, who at 91 is the oldest person ever to serve in the House, is seeking his 18th term but faces a tough runoff challenge from former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe. Hall, who if elected will be Congress’ last remaining World War II veteran, led Ratcliffe in the March primary by 45-29%. He is a popular and beloved lawmaker who says this will be his last term. He is backed by nearly every Texas Republican in Congress, as well as former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann. Ratcliffe’s argument is that it’s time for new leadership and that Hall, first elected in 1980, has done nothing to change “business as usual” in Washington.
Hall is given a slight edge today but an upset can’t be ruled out.
Fun fact, courtesy of Ben Kamisar of the Dallas Morning News: “The district has only had four representatives since 1903, including legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn. Hall’s tenure covers nearly a third of that span.”
In another runoff that few people are paying attention to, Democrats will be picking their nominee to go up against GOP incumbent John Cornyn. The two candidates are dentist David Alameel, who is pouring his own money into the race, and Kesha Rogers, who supports impeaching President Obama. Alameel is favored today but is given no shot against Cornyn in November.
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