Voters in Texas are headed to the polls Tuesday, to potentially pick the Republican nominee in this deep-red state’s open Senate race. There’s also a good chance, though, that voters will split between two GOP candidates in the crowded field, who will then keep slugging it out for the next two months. And it’s already getting dirty.
Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is retiring after three terms, during which she unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Rick Perry in his 2010 primary.
On the Democratic side there is a race between former state Rep. Paul Sadler, former Obama campaign activist Sean Hubbard and federal disaster assistance employee Addie Allen. But the seat is heavily favored to stay in Republican hands.
The big question is whether the top Republican candidates, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, will end up in a runoff if neither can reach 50 percent support. If no candidate clears that 50 percent bar, the top two candidates will face off again on July 31.
A recent survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed Dewhurst at 46 percent — just shy of the 50 percent magic number — followed by Cruz at 29 percent, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert at 15 percent and former ESPN analyst Craig James at 3 percent.
Dewhurst has the support of Perry — who despite his national flameout in the GOP presidential primary, remains a powerful force in Texas — as well as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Cruz, considered the race’s tea party candidate, has attracted right-wing support from the likes of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sarah Palin and others.
Perry has even appeared in ads on Dewhurst’s behalf:
Cruz, for his part, has a cameo from Palin in an ad that spotlights his background as the son of a Cuban refugee.
In the home stretch, Dewhurst has attacked Cruz on “amnesty for illegal immigrants,” based on Cruz’s board member posts in two national groups. Though the radio ad itself does not specify the groups, the Houston Chronicle reports that they are the Hispanic Leadership Fund and the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute.
Cruz is firing back hard, accusing Dewhurst of race-baiting. As the Austin American-Statesman reports, Cruz accused Dewhurst’s campaign of thinking that “anyone with a ‘Z’ in their name is unelectable.”
“When they get scared, they have demonstrated no hesitation to try to appeal to bigotry.”