Cornyn, Sessions Defeat Tea Party Challengers in Texas Primaries

Image: Cornyn, Sessions Defeat Tea Party Challengers in Texas Primaries Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, left, and Rep. Pete Sessions.

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 11:15 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions easily won their Republican primaries in Texas on Tuesday, while the oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives will face a runoff election as he seeks to return to Congress for an 18th and final term.

On the Democratic side, Wendy Davis became the first woman to win the party's nomination for governor since Ann Richards in 1990.

Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, crushed tea party-backed Rep. Steve Stockman and six lesser-known challengers in the nation's first primary of the year.

He avoided a runoff by winning more than 50 percent of the vote. Both the Associated Press and Bloomberg News called the race for Cornyn within an hour after the polls closed. He is expected to win handily in November.

Had Cornyn, 62, fallen short of the 50 percent mark, he would have faced a May 27 runoff — a situation similar to what in Texas eventually resulted in the 2012 election of Sen. Ted Cruz, who has since emerged as one of the nation's leading tea party voices.

Cornyn has been dubbed too moderate by Cruz and other tea party activists. Stockman, a fierce conservative and House renegade, entered the race in December but struggled to raise money.

Stockman also did little organized campaigning, ignoring the media and alienating many top Texas grassroots organizers. He dropped completely out of sight for nearly three weeks in January. Stockman had been part of an official overseas delegation.

Cornyn will face David Alameel in November's election. The dental mogul, who has previously donated to both parties, won the Democratic primary. Alameel, who spent $4.5 million on an unsuccssful run for Congress in 2012, says money will be no object in his longshot bid to unseat Cornyn.

In his House primary race, Sessions handily defeated tea party-backed Katrina Pierson, who racked up key endorsements for the Dallas-area congressional seat but has been underfunded.

The Associated Press also called the race for Sessions, chairman of the House Rules Committee, within an hour of the polls closing.

Sessions is seeking his 10th term. Pierson was endorsed by both FreedomWorks and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

But Rep. Ralph Hall, 90, failed to win 50 percent of the vote in his primary, setting up the May runoff against John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney during the George W. Bush administration and mayor of the north Texas town of Heath.

Hall is a World War II veteran who has served in Congress since 1980. He said that this year's re-election campaign will be his last.

In the gubernatorial race, GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott will face Democrat Davis, who will head a Democratic ticket that in November will seek the party's first statewide victory since 1994, which was also Richards' last year in office.

Neither Abbott nor Davis had a competitive primary.

Davis became a national star within the party last summer with a nearly 13-hour filibuster over new abortion restrictions. Her fundraising outpaced Abbott in the last half of 2013, but she was still considered a heavy underdog.

In another heavily watched race, George P. Bush — nephew of former President George W. Bush, grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — easily won the GOP nomination for Texas land commissioner.

He easily defeated David Watts, a little-known Republican candidate who is a businessman from east Texas.

Bush, 37, is a lawyer in Dallas who will face off against former El Paso Democratic Mayor John Cook in November. His mother, Columba Bush, is from Mexico, and he speaks Spanish fluently, Politico reports.

Bush, who raised more than $3.5 million in his primary race, is seen by many Republicans as a key player in a state with a growing Hispanic population. The land commissioner administers lands and mineral resources owned by the state.

Six of the state's top jobs are open because Republican Gov. Rick Perry decided not to run again after a record 14 years in office, prompting 26 Republicans to vie for various posts.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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