Tea Party Candidates Flex Muscle in Texas

Tea party-backed challengers shove incumbents out of office

The first signs of how conservative the 2013 Texas Legislature will be have emerged in the primary election.

In several races Tuesday, most notably in the House, tea party-backed challengers who pushed even farther to the right shoved several incumbents out of office and left a few more scrapping to survive the July 31 runoff.

Here's a look: (See the results here)

-- Republican House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio, who has spent two years fending off criticism within the GOP that he's not conservative enough, defeated challenger Matt Beebe.

Straus also learned he'll face a direct challenge to his leadership in 2013. Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola announced Tuesday he'll run for House speaker, an office elected by the House members.

Straus saw some of his top lieutenants beaten. House committee chairs Reps. Rob Eissler (education), Vicki Truitt (pensions) and Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton (licensing) were defeated by challengers who criticized their ties to the speaker.

-- House Homeland Security and Public Safety chairman Rep. Sid Miller of Stephenville, author of the law requiring a woman to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion, was forced into a runoff with challenger J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville.

-- Rep. Wayne Christian of Center, one of the House's most outspoken social conservatives who was endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry, was defeated by former Marshall mayor Chris Paddie, who was endorsed by business groups.

-- Veteran Rep. Leo Berman of Tyler, another outspoken social conservative who questioned President Barack Obama's citizenship, was defeated by challenger Matt Schaefer, who said Berman wasn't fiscally conservative enough.

Berman also has been battling cancer and chemotherapy treatments during the campaign.

-- The Texas education cuts of 2011 proved to be too much for some, especially in rural areas. GOP Rep. Marva Beck of Centerville was defeated by Lufkin school board President Trent Ashby.

-- The brass-knuckles politics also fueled some bruising Texas Senate campaigns.

None was tougher than in District 25, which stretches from San Antonio to Austin. Nineteen-year incumbent and moderate Republican Jeff Wentworth was targeted for defeat by the powerful business lobby Texans for Lawsuit Reform and was forced into a runoff with physician and tea party candidate Donna Campbell.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us