Ted Cruz, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator, tells supporters that… (Nick De la Torre / Houston…)
WASHINGTON -- Ted Cruz, the tea party-backed GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, will face establishment-backed David Dewhurst in a runoff this summer that will test conservative strength.
Dewhust, the Texas lieutenant governor, failed to achieve the 50% threshold needed to cinch the nomination for a seat that is expected to remain Republican-held in the general election this fall. The runoff is July 31, a mid-summer date that is likely to lead to a relatively low, and unpredictable, turnout, according to Texas political analysts.
"This is the outcome we have been working so hard to achieve and it's a major victory for the conservative movement," Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the conservative leader who backed Cruz's candidacy, said in a fund-raising pitch on Wednesday morning.
Cruz, a former state solicitor general, was the lesser known of the candidates, but gained conservative backing from Sarah Palin, Tea Party Express and other conservatives as millions poured into the race.
As a sign of the political times, one television ad from the Washington-based Club for Growth attacked Dewhurst with what has become one of the stronger epithets in Republican contests -- "moderate." The club also played a significant role last month in the defeat of incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.
The Texas seat is open with the retirement of Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.