Establishment Republicans lost another one on Tuesday night, as upstart Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz snatched the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in a primary runoff that at the end of the day was anything but a nailbiter.
Cruz was on his way to handily defeating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by a 56-44 margin with 88 percent of the precincts in a resounding end to a bitter race that saw attack ads on both sides of a match-up between Cruz, a former state solicitor general, and Dewhurst, who has held his position since his election as a political newcomer in 2002.
Cruz has a heavy advantage now going into the November election to replace the seat vacated by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.
He faces Democrat Paul Sadler, former chairman of the House Public Education Committee in the November elections.
"This was a victory for the grassroots," Cruz told the crowds at his televised victory celebration in Houston.
Cruz, 41 and a newcomer to elective office, found support in suburbia and the major urban markets, including North Texas where much of the state's most active Tea Party is based. The Travis County results were too close to call.
Dewhurst enjoyed the support of party stalwarts like Governor Rick Perry but Cruz found support in the conservative grassroots and Tea Party advocates who argued that their candidate was much more conservative than Dewhurst, who, despite his record presiding over the most conservative state Senate in modern history, they cast as a moderate.
It was one of the more closely watched races across the nation, as Cruz represented just the latest in a series of upsets by Tea Party-backed candidates in the last few years. Among Cruz’s supporters were national Tea Party darlings including Glen Beck and Sarah Palin, who bashed Perry at a campaign stop in Texas last week.
In a prepared statement, Perry called Cruz “a force to be reckoned with” and praised his campaigning skills and the energy he solicited from the grassroots in Texas.
Hutchison also released a statement on Tuesday congratulating Cruz on his win. “In the coming months, I will do everything I can to support the election of Ted Cruz to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate and be available to him for any questions that will prepare him for the issues he will face,” she said.