Texas is a very different state than Maine, where the Tea Party displaced the moderate establishment. The Texas Republican Party is about as conservative as any state party in the country. If the GOP establishment could feel safe anywhere it would be Texas, where the party platform adopted in 2010 opens with a declaration of support for “state sovereignty reserved under the Tenth Amendment.” In just the first page the platform goes on to hit Tea Party erogenous zones such as “review and revision of those portions of the USA Patriot Act… that erode constitutional rights” and to issue this unusual declaration: “We demand elimination of presidential authority to issue executive orders.” We’ll see if they feel that way when there is a Republican in the Oval Office.
But Tuesday’s primary in Texas showed that the Tea Party movement remains suspicious of candidates who are favored by the party establishment. In a number of races, they upset the incumbent or favorite. As Abby Rapoport reports in The American Prospect, a number of Republican state legislators who voted for draconian budget cuts were targeted, and in some cases taken out. “Several incumbents suffered—but not in a manner you might expect,” writes Rapoport. “Take Rob Eissler, the Republican chair of the Public Education Committee who pushed for some of the big budget cuts. He lost his primary Tuesday night in a big upset. But he didn’t lost [sic] his seat to a candidate pushing back against cuts. Nope. Eissler lost his seat to a Tea Party insurgent because—get this—Eissler had been too moderate and was too closely aligned with House Speaker Joe Straus.”
The Texas race that garnered national attention is the race for the state’s open US Senate seat. Since Texas is so overwhelmingly Republican, winning the primary is tantamount to winning the general election. The establishment favorite is Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Dewhurst is hardly the second coming of Nelson Rockefeller. As the Washington Post notes, “A Rice University study found that the lieutenant governor is about as conservative as two-thirds of the Republican state Senate delegation.” That’s a pretty conservative group.
But Tea Party activists say Dewhurst has not been aggressive enough in opposing illegal immigration and opposing intrusive government. “David Dewhurst, has consistently failed to fight for Conservative [sic] principles,” Katrina Pierson, board member of the Dallas Tea Party, writes in an email. “In Texas, there are three boxes you have to check. The first being pro-life. Second, you have to be pro-guns. Third, you have to be against increasing Taxes [sic]. Having checked all three of those boxes, most Republican voters overlook the other and more important virtues of Conservatism [sic] until now. The Texas budget has been smoke and mirrors with illegal immigration being a large contributing factor…. Dewhurst, along with Governor Perry, do the bidding on the cheap labor lobby as requested of their top donors.”