The Texas Republican Senate primary is headed to a runoff in two months — setting up another showdown between a state party establishment favorite, and a national tea party-backed insurgent.
With all precincts reporting, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has 45 percent of the vote, followed by former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz with 34 percent, and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert in third place with 13 percent, according to the Associated Press. Dewhurst came up just short of the 50 percent threshold needed to win the nomination outright. The runoff between Dewhurst and Cruz will be held on July 31.
The seat is being vacated by Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring after three terms, during which she unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Rick Perry in his 2010 primary.
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.
Things already got dirty in the home stretch of the primary. Dewhurst 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 fired back, accusing Dewhurst of race-baiting. As the Austin American-Statesman reported, Cruz accused Dewhurst’s campaign of thinking that “anyone with a ‘Z’ in their name is unelectable.”