Tea Party candidates expected to dominate in Texas — push conservative state further right
With polls indicating a Republican sweep of statewide offices in Texas, two protégés of Tea Party favorite U.S. Senator Ted Cruz are poised to take over powerful posts and push the already conservative state further to the right.
Radio talk show host Dan Patrick has a commanding lead for Tuesday’s election to be the new lieutenant governor, the most powerful legislative position in a state with a $1.4 trillion annual economy.
Ken Paxton, a Tea Party-backed state senator from the Dallas area, is expected to handily win the attorney general’s race, taking over an office already at the national forefront in the fight against abortion, illegal immigration and gun control.
He holds a strong lead despite legal problems for soliciting investment clients without being properly registered with the state.
“This is a bad year for Democrats everywhere and in a state as red as Texas, it isn’t surprising that we are seeing the most conservative candidates on the ballot running way out ahead,” said Republican strategist Bill Miller.
Despite holding solid majorities in both bodies, Republicans have typically, but not always, reached some level of accommodation with Democrats to help move legislation along in a statehouse that only meets once every other year
But with Tea Party-aligned candidates predicted to dominate races for the State Senate and House, there will be little room for compromise, analysts said.
The influence of Democratic lawmakers will diminish if Patrick carries through with a campaign pledge to make it harder for the party to introduce legislation, according to Southern Methodist University political science Professor Cal Jillson.
“We are definitely going to see a push further toward the right, even to the point of extremism,” Jillson said.
Democrats have not won a statewide race in 20 years in Texas and are set for another defeat for the top post of governor with state Senator Wendy Davis posting a double-digit deficit in opinion polls to Republican candidate Greg Abbott, currently the attorney general.
But, in the long run, the hard-right push could benefit Democrats, who see the demographics of the state changing in a way that could give the party the majority in the second-most populous state.
“This is still a very red state, and I don’t think it can turn around in one election cycle,” Texas Monthly political writer Paul Burka said.
(By Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Stephen Powell)