Gov. Rick Perry and former Houston Mayor Bill White claimed their parties' gubernatorial nominations Tuesday night, and the incumbent Republican will face his Democratic challenger in November's general election.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison conceded the GOP gubernatorial primary, congratulating Perry on his 11th consecutive statewide victory. White, meanwhile, had enough votes to call an early victory over Farouk Shami and five other Democrats, declaring, "We're gonna have some fun, and Texans are going to come together." Later, he sent a message about a conversation with Shami: "Just spoke to Farouk Shami. Very gracious. He'll help me. I do like his idea of building solar panel factories in Texas."
The GOP primary election caps two years of political skirmishing that escalated into a political war between Perry and Hutchison, the state's senior U.S. senator. Debra Medina, a former Wharton County Republican Party chair with political ties to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, joined the race last year and surged to prominence as disaffected conservatives found their voice in Tea Party and nullification rallies around the state.
Perry compared his victory to Republican gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia and to the landmark victory of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, in the former district of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“There are some folks who watched (the national campaign) in 2008, and they started to celebrate what they thought to be the end of the Republican Party and the final nail in the coffin of American conservatism,” Perry said. “Well, there was a victory in New Jersey, a victory in Virginia, a victory in Massachusetts. Now there’s been a victory in Texas.
"I think the message is pretty clear," Perry said, claiming the victory. "Conservatism has never been stronger than it is today. We're taking our country back, one vote at a time, one election at a time."
Click here to listen to Ben Philpott's audio report on the race.
The Democratic field, conversely, came together late. White was looking at Hutchison's Senate seat, believing — along with almost everyone in politics — that she would resign before the end of 2009. When it became apparent that she wouldn't do that, he started looking at the governor's race. Tom Schieffer, a former U.S. ambassador, state representative and businessman, had been in the race for months without gaining any footing. He dropped out. White got in. Hank Gilbert and Kinky Friedman, who had been in the governor's race, jumped out and are running against each other for agriculture commissioner. Shami had money to spend — he's crossed the $11 million mark and says the race will end up at about $15 million — but White has an established political name in Houston and ties all over the state he used to serve as Democratic Party chairman. Five other candidates never really registered with voters: Alma Ludivina Aguado, Felix Alvarado, Bill Dear, Clement Glenn and Star Locke.
White said he knows what awaits him if he faces "Perry and his consultants," as he expects, in the general election. "We've seen it all before," White said.
He said Perry would try to take credit for all of the good things that happen in Texas and would not take responsibility for the bad things like nearly 1 million Texans being unemployed. "We need a governor who will take responsibility for the unemployment in this state," he said.
"It's time we moved this state forward, don't you think?"
He said officeholders should be "humble public servants" who don't use their offices to satisfy their personal agendas.
Among the Republicans, Perry led in the polls for most of the year — Hutchison jumped in front in only one poll, in September, after the governor took the lead in early summer. Incumbents aren't popular this year, but the governor framed Hutchison as a standard-bearer for unpopular Washington politics, and she never shook that reputation. Almost a year ago, he shocked many in politics by hinting at secession, effectively positioning himself as an outsider as mad at the national government as everyone else. And he pressed the case throughout the year, even as Medina made a play for libertarians and Tea Party supporters looking for a clean break from the current array of officeholders in state and national government.
Hutchison praised Medina's campaign, said she had congratulated Perry and said it's time for Republicans to pull together and get ready for the general election in November. "It has been a long road and a hard-fought campaign. But tonight we fell short."
This race for governor started, really, when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 and Perry, then lieutenant governor, was elevated to the governor's office. Perry wanted to run for a full term, and Hutchison kicked the tires for a bit and decided, in March 2001, not to run against him.
She circled back in the run-up to the 2006 elections. With Perry saying he wanted to seek re-election, she was telling her supporters — and mutual supporters of the two — that she wanted the top job in state government. But they talked her out of it, passing along their understanding that Perry wouldn't go again in 2010, and that this year it would be her turn. She announced in 2005 that she'd seek another term in the Senate instead of running for governor.
And then she and everyone else got a surprise from Perry when he told a reporter for The Dallas Morning News in April 2008 that he'd seek another term in 2010. Some thought he was faking — to ward off the weakened powers of a lame duck — but he was serious.
What Hutchison had hoped would be a cakewalk turned into a brawl. Donors who had promised to join her in 2006 were now stuck between their party's most prominent officeholders (not counting Bush, who was in his last year in the White House). They were forced to choose favorites.
Down the ballot:
• Democratic voters will send Linda Chavez-Thompson into the fray against incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. She bested former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and Austin deli owner Marc Katz in her first political race.
• Hector Uribe edged out Bill Burton in the Democratic race for Land Commissioner; he'll face incumbent Republican Jerry Patterson in November.
• And in the upset of the day, Railroad Commission Chairman Victor Carrillo lost his bid for reelection to David Porter, a political unknown with an apparently attractive ballot name, in the GOP primary. That will revive fears among some Republicans that their party isn't welcoming to Hispanics, or Hispanic surnames in races where people with Anglicized names are also running.
Full election results and interactive maps are available on our Primary 2010 page. You can find audio of what some of them said here: Perry, White, and Hutchison. And our rundown of legislative and other races starts here.