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Texas Senate Republican Primary: Establishment Vs. Tea Party

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A new poll here in Texas confirms what some political analysts believe about the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas that’s being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. The poll, by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, shows the frontrunner is still the current Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. He has 38 percent in the survey that was conducted between February 8 and 15.

Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, is in second place with 27 percent. The other major candidates, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Craig James, formerly with ESPN, are far back. Each has 7 percent. James got into the race late, and Leppert has struggled with name recognition in the rest of the state.

So, for now, that leaves Dewhurst and Cruz. Dewhurst has been Lieutenant Governor since 2003. He’s racked up a lot of endorsements. He’s a successful businessman and was in the U.S. Air Force and CIA. Dewhurst is part of the Republican establishment in Texas. He’s running as a conservative and, like the other candidates, has sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, and his policies.

Cruz is a Tea Party favorite, who criticized Dewhurst early on for not taking part in the debates. Cruz says that Dewhurst isn’t conservative enough.

The race will serve as a test to see how far to the right Texas Republicans have moved. During last year’s legislative session, there were disagreements between Republicans in the State Senate — led by Dewhurst — and by Republicans in the House. Even though House Speaker Joe Straus’ positions are similar to Dewhurst’s, there were many Tea Party Republicans voted into the House in 2010, and they had a lot of influence on the 2012-13 budget.

There were sharp differences between Republicans in the House and Senate in education and social service programs. While both sides compromised, those differences will still be debated.

Dewhurst regularly points out the Republican-controlled Legislature still increased funding for public schools while holding the line on taxes. But the public schools funding didn’t keep pace with all of the new students moving to Texas.

For now, there is still no final date set for the Texas primary. May 29 remains the working date, but it could be delayed until June. Either way, there’s still a lot of time until the primary.

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