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Year in Review: Politics

Gov. Rick Perry's strikingly disastrous presidential bid, U.S. Sen.-elect Ted Cruz's surprisingly successful campaign and a Legislature full of fresh faces were among the top political stories of 2012. Jay Root and Ross Ramsey take a look back.

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The beginning of 2012 marked the end of Gov. Rick Perry’s wild and ultimately disastrous run for president.

Perry entered the race in the summer of 2011 as a top-tier candidate, seemingly filling Republicans' aching desire for a conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

By the time Perry limped to South Carolina in January, he was a walking dead man, having come in fifth place in the first-test Iowa Caucuses. Perry pulled out of the race on January 19, two days before the South Carolina primary.

Back in Texas, a battle royal was brewing in the race for the U.S. Senate. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was heavily favored to win. But the insurgent candidate Ted Cruz, who had never held elective office, got into a summer runoff with Dewhurst and at that point the writing was on the wall. On July 31, Cruz pulled off the rare feat of beating the establishment’s handpicked candidate.

The two losses — Perry’s in the presidential race and Dewhurst’s in the Senate race — paused speculation about who might run for their jobs, but speculation about the 2014 elections is already well underway. Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott have said they’ll announce their plans for those elections after the legislative session.

In November, Cruz easily defeated former state Rep. Paul Sadler, showing Democrats are still woefully unprepared to compete with Republicans in statewide races. Democrats haven’t won one of those contests since 1994. In the Senate, Republicans will outnumber Democrats 19-12 in the coming legislative session; in the House, the partisan balance will be 95-55 in favor of the GOP.

Texas voters sent eight new members to Congress, including four in seats added to the state’s delegation because of population growth. Six freshmen will join the Texas Senate next year, including one who hasn’t been selected yet. The death of Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, prompted a special election that is set for January to name his replacement. Four of the new senators come from the House. In that chamber, the partisan lines will remain largely the same in 2013 but many of the names will change, with 44 members who haven’t served in a legislative session taking the floor next year. Combined with returning sophomores, the House’s 150 members will include 67 serving in their first or second term.

Below are links to some of the Tribune's top political stories this year:

Perry Assessing Campaign After Poor Iowa Showing

Perry, On Ropes, Says He Won't Give Up

A Final Indignity Where the Crusade Began

Sadler Says Fundraising Total So Weak It's "Shocking"

Ted Nugent: Bearing Arms, Cranking Up the Controversy

"Band of Brothers" Pulls Strings for Cruz Campaign

Cruz Appeals to Hispanics in Prime-Time Speech

The Oops Diaries: Turmoil Preceded Oops Moment

Candidates for 2014 Already Getting Busy

Spokesman: George P. Bush is Still Shopping

New Legislative Faces — and an Experience Deficit

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2012 elections