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Tea partier Dan Patrick wins big in Texas primary

The tea party flexed its muscled in Texas’s primary runoffs Tuesday night as radio host-turned-politician Dan Patrick beat incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Texas State Sen. Dan Patrick
Texas State Sen. Dan Patrick speaks to a supporter before facing off with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Salado, Texas, on May 20, 2014.

Tea party challenger Dan Patrick defeated three-term incumbent David Dewhurst Tuesday night to win the Republican nomination for Texas lieutenant governor. Patrick, a radio talk show host and state senator, advances to the general election against Democratic nominee state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

Patrick was buoyed by a wave of tea party support to clinch a messy primary campaign that included personal attacks on Dewhurst, painting him as weak and insufficiently conservative -- the kind of candidate who let Wendy Davis derail anti-abortion legislation on his watch.

It was not a good night for Texas's established political class. Voters gave the boot to Congress's oldest member, 91-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall -- at one point favored to win -- instead nominating tea party-backed attorney John Ratcliffe. Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, also won his primary runoff, defeating former Rep. Quico Canseco in the race to represent Texas's 23rd Congressional District. And in the 36th District primary runoff, dentist Brian Babin beat businessman Ben Streusand to run for Rep. Steve Stockman's soon-to-be-vacated seat. 

On the Democratic side, controversial Senate primary candidate Kesha Rogers -- who declared her intention to impeach President Obama -- lost in a landslide to Dallas dentist David Alameel, a former GOP donor. Alameel now faces Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who is heavily favored to win a third term in November.

Unlike in earlier primary races this spring that saw the tea party fall short in Kentucky and North Carolina, tea party candidates were favored for big wins on Tuesday.

Patrick beat Dewhurst by 13 points in the March primary, prompting today’s runoff. The tea party challenger had attracted a strong following with his rhetoric, including promises to stop what he has called an “illegal invasion” of Mexican immigrants into the state and attacks on Dewhurst's cooperation with Democrats.

The pair of candidates had largely the same views -- neither believes in global warming, and both said firing squads might not be the best way to execute death row inmates -- but it was a contentious election as Patrick moved to oust the 11-year veteran from office.

Patrick’s medical records were released, showing a history of depression; character attacks were thrown back and forth; business records exhumed, and attack ads—one even including a shirtless Patrick -- took over the airwaves.

Dewhurst's loss is the final blow in what has been a rough few years for the career of the once-powerful Republican energy mogul and millionaire. In 2012, Dewhurst lost to Sen. Ted Cruz in a Senate primary -- a race that sent Texas Republicans scurrying further to the right and paved the way for primary seasons dominated by an establishment vs. tea party narrative.