Dewhurst is the highest profile Texas political veteran who did not succeed in his bid for new office
Incumbents fared poorly in July 31 runoff elections. Low turnout may be to blame for wins by some of the more extreme candidates.
Equality Texas Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith said that the results of the runoff elections were examples of what can happen when only 7 percent turn out to vote.
“A lot of incumbents were turned out of office and replaced by tea party people,” he said. “If people sit on the sidelines, it allows races to be decided by the few people who participate.”
Incumbents fared poorly not only in re-election runoffs but also in races for different offices.
That was the case with Ted Cruz who won the Republican nomination for Senate over David Dewhurst, who has served as lieutenant governor since 2003.
And Rep. Warren Chisum, an author of Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, lost in his run for the Railroad Commission.
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez called Tuesday a bad day for Republican incumbents.
“Ultraconservatives have taken over Texas,” he said.
The exception to that may be Dallas, where moderates prevailed in two closely watched races.
In state House District 114, Jason Villalba beat tea party-backed Bill Keffer. Villalba has visited gay Republican groups in Dallas and is considered a big-tent Republican. Keffer served in the House from 2002–2006.
In the race for a seat on the State Board of Education, Tincy Miller trounced Gail Spurlock. George Clayton, the incumbent, was outed as gay last year and came in third in the May primary. In 2010, Clayton beat Miller. He is planning a write-in candidacy.
Spurlock, who ran on a platform of abstinence-only education, ending bilingual education and the intrusion of the Obama administration in education, has only a high school education and lost in the runoff.
In other parts of the state, more extreme candidates triumphed.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth of New Braunfels was defeated by tea party favorite Donna Campbell. Wentworth was the only Republican senator to vote against pre-abortion sonograms.
But in District 59, Sid Miller, the author of the sonogram bill was also ousted by a doctor who billed himself as “pro-family, pro-life, pro-gun” and the only true conservative in the race.
In Tarrant County, Matt Krause, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, best known for defending a student’s right to harass a gay teacher in class, beat incumbent Barbara Nash for the Republican nomination for the District 93 seat.
Narvaez said that Paul Sadler, who won the Democratic nomination for senator this week, will have a tough time in the fall election facing Cruz.
“It’s a long-shot race because Sadler hasn’t built a grassroots network yet,” Narvaez said. “That’s difficult to do with little to no money.”
Smith blamed low turnout on dissatisfaction with both parties.
“A lot of people don’t like what either party is saying,” Smith said, noting the Democratic Party’s lack of a full slate of state candidates and the Republican Party’s infighting between mainstream and tea party factions.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 3, 2012.
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