A Good Night for Texas Conservatives; a Bad Night for Grifters

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 5 2014 9:06 AM

A Good Night for Texas Conservatives; a Bad Night for Grifters

I'm wrapping up a piece about Texas' fascinating March 4 primaries, and in reading what other reporters have come up with I think the conservative movement's getting short shrift. Yes, by all means, the marquee races for Senate and the 32nd Congressional District went for "the establishment." There are reasons for that, and the media saw it coming. I mean, a Cornyn "challenger" named Chris Mapp got a day of national coverage for calling Hispanics "wetbacks." He went on to win less than 2 percent of the vote. 

But look down the ballot.

- Last month I'd noted how Ken Paxton, a right-wing candidate for attorney general, was basing his entire campaign on the affection of Ted Cruz. Paxton's statewide TV ad featured Cruzwho had not actually endorsed him—speaking his praises at an event. The GOP establishment preferred state Rep. Dan Branch to Paxton. There have been only two modern Republican attorneys general of Texas, John Cornyn and Greg Abbott. Neither of them was a firebrand; both were seen as leaders of the conservative pack of state AGs. Branch fit snugly in the Cornyn/Abbott/Chamber of Commerce mold.

Advertisement

He got clobbered. Paxton won the first round last night, 44–34 over Branch, the rest of the vote going to an even more conservative candidate. Since no candidate got 50 percent of the vote, both head to a May runoff. Branch starts it in the hole.

- Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had no real enemies to the right until 2012. That was the year he ran for Senate, expecting to spend big and win easy. It didn't work—Ted Cruz beat him. Dewhurst suddenly looked weak, and (gasp) moderate. Ambitious conservatives jumped into his race, and they humiliated him, with radio mogul and state Sen. Dan Patrick leading him 42–28. Look again: The incumbent lieutenant governor, the guy who tried to gavel in the state's abortion law over Wendy Davis' filibuster, barely got a quarter of the vote. Dewhurst enters the runoff with his car on cinder blocks.

- When Sen. Rand Paul visited Texas last month, he made a couple of buzzy speeches about the national GOP and a less-newsy endorsement in the Dallas suburbs. Don Huffines, a supporter of Paul, was running against a longtime GOP state senator. Paul endorsed him, and hung around long enough to appear in a photo with the candidate and Glenn Beck.

- Katrina Pierson's race in TX-32 baffled some Tea Party activists. Yes, she was a charismatic leader; yes, she worked to elect Ted Cruz. But she got in late and raised little money. The better grassroots cause, they argued, was Konni Burton's campaign for a state Senate seat. These activists were right: Burton won the first round of her primary 43–35, and has a good shot at winning the runoff.

Oh, and George P. Bush won the primary for land commissioner with nearly three-quarters of the vote. Not a "conservative victory" per se, just one that gives the party a credible 2024 presidential candidate.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?