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Cruz Upsets Dewhurst In GOP Senate Race

Michael Stravato
Texas Tribune

Attorney Ted Cruz credits a grassroots movement with his defeat of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.  

Cruz captured 57 percent of the vote while Dewhurst had 43 percent. 

It was a come-from-behind win for the first-time candidate and 41-year old Houston attorney who finished more than 10 points behind Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in the primary. 

"It is a testament to Republican woman, tea party leaders and to grassroots conservatives," Cruz told cheering supporters.  "This is how elections are supposed to be decided by, We the People."     

In the past two months, Cruz surged past Dewhurst casting himself as “a fighter”, leveraging fiery debate performances and a groundswell of support from tea party activists.  National figures like Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Glenn Beck endorsed Cruz’s message of limited government and a return to the Constitution.  Local volunteers put up yard signs, knocked on doors and worked phone banks.

Twenty-four year old Richard Morgan of Dallas was among the tea party supporters who celebrated Cruz’ win at an Arlington victory party.

"I’ve met Cruz probably 20 different times at different events. I’ve believed in him for a year now, since I got to know him, but to see him actually pull it off was really exciting," Morgan said.

Dewhurst told supporters he hadn’t expected to lose.

"It’s not quite how I envisioned the evening to start," he said, "especially in light of my conservative record and all the things we’ve accomplished here in the State of Texas.  I’m very proud."

After more than a decade in statewide office, Dewhurst was better known than Cruz and lead the race until a few weeks ago. But Cruz’ high-voltage presence outflanked Dewhurst’s reserved campaign style.  Cruz harnessed the discontent among voters and forced Dewhurst to defend his conservative credentials.

Cruz's ability to energize a crowd was on display at his victory party as he delivered one of his crowd-pleasing lines:  "Millions of Americans are rising up, to defend liberty and to restore the Constitution."

Cruz’s upset win has already propelled him onto the national scene where he could -if elected in November- become a conservative super-star in the Senate.

Cruz will face Democrat Paul Sadler in November.  The former legislator handily won his runoff with Grady Yarborough 63 percent to 37 percent.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.