Nearly 1.4 million Texans voted in May’s U.S. Senate primary, and they’ll return to the polls on July 31 for the runoff between former solicitor general Ted Cruz and current lieutenant governor David Dewhurst — but so far, only two of the 23 Texas Republican members of the U.S. House have endorsed either candidate.
Neither Dewhurst nor Cruz received 50 percent of May’s primary vote, resulting in July 31’s runoff (early voting began this past Monday, the 22nd). The winner of the Republican nomination is expected to go on to win the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Representatives Ron Paul (in early May) and Michael Burgess (in early July) both endorsed Cruz, while, so far, Dewhurst has yet to receive an endorsement from a Texas congressman.
“In Congress, I discovered very few elected officials willing to rock the boat, to make the hard decisions we need to turn our nation around,” said Burgess in a press release endorsing Cruz. “Ted Cruz is that strong, proven conservative leader, a constitutional scholar, and a fighter through and through.”
Regarding the 21 Texas representatives who have chosen not to endorse either candidate, most of their press secretaries said, in one way or another, that they were staying out of the race.
“All these guys are worried about being primaried,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political consultant and former adviser to Hutchison.
Mackowiak, who mentioned he personally supports Cruz, told National Review he considers the lack of endorsements “extremely unusual,” but admitted that such endorsements carry with them high risk and low reward.
The state’s political donors, Mackowiak said, seem to prefer Dewhurst’s experience, whereas Texas activists like Cruz’s ties to the Tea Party. Thus, Texas congressmen prefer to remain neutral rather than upset, on the one hand, their voters or, on the other, their money men.
“[Endorsing is] a perilous choice that doesn’t benefit you very much and is a big risk,” said Mackowiak.
James Bernsen, the communications director for Cruz’s campaign, said he wasn’t surprised so many congressmen have decided to stay out of the Cruz–Dewhurst fight.
“A contested senate race [in Texas] is rare,” Bersen said, “and these kind of endorsements are even rarer.”
“Rare” might be an understatement, especially for the seat that Cruz and Dewhurst are fighting over. Before Hutchison won in 1994, the last Republican to hold the Class 1 Texas Senate seat was James Flanagan, who served between 1870 and 1875.
But prominent political figures outside of the Texas congressional delegation haven’t been so shy about throwing their support behind one candidate or the other.
Many of Cruz’s supporters have come from outside of Texas, including Senator Rand Paul (R,. Ky.), Senator Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), former senator Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) and former governor Sarah Palin (R., Alaska). Dewhurst has received endorsements from Texas governor Rick Perry (R., Texas) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R., Ark.).