Tea-Party Victories in Texas and Georgia

by John Fund

Texas Democratic party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa says it’s clear what happened to the Texas Republican establishment last night. “It’s a tea-flavored mutiny, plain and simple,” he told the Houston Chronicle as the body count of establishment figures going down to defeat kept on climbing.

Indeed, Ted Cruz’s crushing 13-point defeat of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate was only the beginning of the Tea Party’s romp. Nine-term Republican state senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, who had blocked spending cuts and tort reform during his time in office, went down to a 2–1 defeat at the hands of a political novice, emergency-room physician Donna Campbell. Two senior state house committee chairmen, Representative Sid Miller and Representative Chuck Hopson, both lost to tea-party candidates. Former congressman Steve Stockman, a conservative firebrand who was elected in the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 only to lose his seat two years later, won a runoff election and is favored to return to the House after a 16-year absence.

Texas GOP establishment figures knew it was a bad night. “This is not quite the way I envisioned the evening,” Dewhurst told reporters, acknowledging that the campaign in which he had sunk $25 million of his own money had flopped. Texas governor Rick Perry, who had backed Dewhurst, admitted that “Ted (Cruz) is a force to be reckoned with: an excellent candidate and a great conservative communicator.”

The Tea Party’s victories also extended into Georgia’s primary yesterday. Voters in nine of twelve regions rejected a penny increase in the sales tax to fund transportation projects. In metro Atlanta the margin of defeat was 26 points. The tax had been a major priority for Georgia GOP governor Nathan Deal.

Debbie Dooley, the chair of Georgia Tea Party Patriots, said the result wasn’t surprising: “The people are sending a message, and elected officials would do well to take heed: You aren’t getting any more of our tax dollars until you can show you’re responsible and can be trusted with the money you have now.”