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Ted Cruz and the tea party vying for Texas Senate seat

May 29, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz greets supporters at a Tea Party Express rally at the Capitol in Austin, Texas.
U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz greets supporters at a Tea Party Express… (Jay Janner / Statesman.com )

Tea partyers riding high off of their successful efforts to further shake up the Republican establishment in Nebraska and Indiana have turned their eyes to Texas, where challenger Ted Cruz has a chance to at least force another vote in the hunt for the state’s open Senate seat.

A number of prominent tea party figures -- including Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul – have recently joined groups such as the Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks in coalescing their support around Cruz, who polls show currently trails his most prominent rival, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. But because of the nature of the state’s primaries, the former Texas solicitor general stands a chance of at least getting a second shot at the electorate even if he loses Tuesday.

If Dewhurst fails to gather 50% of the vote, the election will move to a runoff July 31. The most recent poll out of Texas shows Dewhurst falling below that crucial line, leading Cruz 46% to 29% in a poll conducted May 22 and 23. The Public Policy Polling results also show that supporters of Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, at third with 15%, strongly support Dewhurst and would play a part in the 59%-34% lead the lieutenant governor would theoretically hold over Cruz in a head-to-head race.

Dewhurst has gathered several high-profile endorsements of his own, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry supporting the front-runner. But in an election year that’s seen the defeat of GOP Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana and the emergence of Deb Fischer, the longtime Nebraska state legislator, anything seems possible, even more so if the results force a runoff.

Cruz has been outmatched by Dewhurst in regard to funds, though according to the Federal Election Commission, $12 million of Dewhurst’s $18 million raised came from the candidate himself. Cruz has raised $6.1 million, according to his campaign. Independent money has also been flowing into the state, with about $2.8 million spent in favor of Dewhurst, and more than $3.5 million in favor of Cruz, according to the FEC.

The open seat is held by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who will not be seeking reelection after her unsuccessful bid to win Texas’ Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010, losing to Perry by 22 points.

morgan.little@latimes.com

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