Onetime Senate Hopefuls Can Still Play Role in Race
Two Republicans and two Democrats are in primary runoffs to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The nine candidates who have already lost now must decide whom, if anyone, to endorse.
While two Republicans and two Democrats are still standing in the U.S. Senate race, nine other primary candidates who lost now have the chance to say who they’d like to see win the July 31 runoffs.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz survived a nine-way race for the Republican nomination. Former state Rep. Paul Sadler and retired educator Grady Yarbrough are the two Democrats to make it out of a four-way primary.
Endorsements have played a larger role in the Republican side of the race so far. Cruz has touted the support of several widely known conservative figures, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson. Palin spoke in an automated call to primary voters for the Cruz campaign. Gov. Rick Perry and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have appeared in television ads for Dewhurst.
Nearly 79 percent of Republican voters backed either Dewhurst or Cruz in Tuesday's primary. Seven other candidates split the remainder, with former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert faring the best at 13 percent.
Dewhurst told reporters last week that he had spoken to Leppert but did not provide details.
Leppert has remained tight-lipped. Though he appeared more ideologically aligned with Dewhurst than Cruz during the primary, Leppert may be less inclined to help Dewhurst after the lieutenant governor launched an aggressive attack against Leppert the week before the primary. The liberaltomleppert.com website and corresponding YouTube video unveiled by Dewhurst’s campaign late last month have since been taken down.
Endorsements from the other Republican candidates are less likely to have much impact as none received more than 4 percent of the vote but could still provide a source of momentum to Dewhurst or Cruz going into the runoff.
Former NFL player and ESPN analyst Craig James, who came in fourth with 4 percent of the vote, endorsed Dewhurst. In an email to supporters Friday, James suggested that backing Dewhurst was the more politically risky choice given Cruz’s popularity among Tea Party Republicans, a group James courted during his campaign.
“As I’ve said all along, I don’t make decisions based on political expediency,” James said. “It would have been easy and expected for me to endorse Ted Cruz.”
James said he decided on Dewhurst because of his background, most notably his success in business and realizing “the American Dream,” and the state’s conservative record while Dewhurst has served as lieutenant governor. He also cited concerns that “outside power brokers, PACs and special-interest groups” were trying to influence the race in favor of Cruz.
“There are no perfect candidates — myself included,” James said. “With that in mind, and based on all the facts, I believe I made the best choice between the two candidates.”
The other five Republican primary candidates collectively drew just over 4 percent of the vote.
Glenn Addison, a funeral home director from Magnolia, endorsed Paul for president but said he’s not endorsing in the U.S. Senate runoff.
“My supporters are sharp-enough people where they can do their homework and decide who they like best,” Addison said.
Dripping Springs activist Lela Pittenger said Cruz is the fighter Texas needs in Washington, D.C.
“I feel we need someone with a fresh perspective,” Pittenger said. “Frankly, I don’t think Dewhurst has a fresh perspective.”
Fort Worth businessman Curt Cleaver, Houston-area plastic surgeon "Doc" Joe Agris, and Ben Gambini, a system controls specialist from Winnie – could not be reached for comment Monday.
On the Democratic side of the race, Sadler and Yarbrough combined for 61 percent of the total vote. Disaster assistance worker Addie Allen came in third with 23 percent support followed by Sean Hubbard, a former sales and billing clerk for a door company, received the remaining 16 percent.
Allen said there is a “strong possibility’ that she will endorse in the runoff but wasn’t yet ready to do so.
Hubbard is backing Sadler.
“I absolutely endorse Paul, and I’ve talked with him quite a bit about how I can help with the campaign,” Hubbard said.
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