Republican candidates considered "outsiders" and "anti-establishment" conservatives romped to big wins on Tuesday in races to determine nominees for lieutenant governor and state attorney general in Texas.
With their campaigns fueled by tea party groups and other conservative activists, swashbuckling conservative state Sens. Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton won runoff battles, respectively, over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Rep. Dan Branch, the attorney general hopeful backed by the business community and the state GOP establishment.
Coupled with the victories of several conservative "outsiders" over incumbent GOP legislators aligned with the moneyed establishment, the triumphs of Patrick and Paxton are strong evidence that the tea party and grass-roots conservatism are a force to be reckoned with — at least in the Lone Star State.
"Paxton's victory may be the most important win for conservatives," former Texas Republican Chairman Tom Pauken told Newsmax. "We will have an independent attorney general in Texas, one not beholden to the George Bush/Karl Rove crowd who did all they could to defeat him."
Pauken added that the likely elections of Paxton and Patrick this fall "are not good news for Jeb Bush's potential run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016."
Both candidates won their runoffs convincingly after campaigns that were variously described as "incendiary" and "mean-spirited."
Paxton was hit hard by Branch over charges of ethical violations regarding a referral he made as a private attorney. Paxton acknowledged he had once paid a $1,000 fine and the charges were drowned out by Paxton's endorsement from the National Rifle Association and a hard-hitting media blitz portraying him as a constitutional conservative in the mold of Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.
Paxton also vowed to fight Obamacare and champion religious liberties. Although heavily outspent by Branch, Paxton rolled up a winning margin of 3-to-2.
Like Paxton, Patrick — a Houston-area state senator and TV-radio commentator — took a hard line on illegal immigration. He vowed to work with Mexico to secure the Texas border and to abolish sanctuary cities and in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.
In the last 10 days of the race, state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who had placed third behind Patrick and Dewhurst in the initial primary, created a sensation when he helped secure the release of records showing Patrick had been institutionalized twice and had once attempted suicide.
Dewhurst distanced himself from the salvos and The Dallas Morning News, which had strongly endorsed Dewhurst, nonetheless denounced the revelation of Patrick's medical records. Patrick defeated Dewhurst with about 65 percent of the vote.
In a state that last elected a Democrat to statewide office in 1994, Patrick and Paxton are considered strong favorites for November.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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