By MANNY FERNANDEZ
c.2014 New York Times News Service
McALLEN, Texas - Establishment Republican leaders in Texas on Tuesday defeated challenges from the far right in a statewide primary election, as Ted Cruz-inspired conservatives largely failed to topple mainstream incumbents.
Two Republican leaders in Congress - Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions - and a number of other Republicans in the House overcame opponents backed by Tea Party activists. There were no surprises in the race for governor, as the Republican and Democratic front-runners - Greg Abbott, the state attorney general, and state Sen. Wendy Davis - won their respective primaries and will face each other in the general election in November. Davis is trying to become the first Democratic governor of Texas in two decades.
Around the state, frigid temperatures and icy conditions may have dampened turnout, an anticlimactic end to what had been one of the most crowded, expensive and fiercely fought statewide Republican primaries in recent history.
The crowded races were prompted by the announcement last year by Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, that he was not running for re-election. His decision set off a round of political musical chairs at the top levels of state government, as dozens of Republican leaders and mavericks jostled for higher office, inspired in part by Cruz, a Tea Party-backed lawyer who had never held public office before defeating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2012.
On Tuesday, Dewhurst faced three prominent conservatives in his re-election bid and the possibility of a runoff in May.
Another Texas Republican in the fight of his political life was a longtime congressman, Rep. Ralph M. Hall. Hall was expected by some to face John Ratcliffe, a former chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Texas, in a May runoff. Hall has been in Congress since 1981 and, at 90, is the oldest person to serve in the House of Representatives.
George P. Bush - the nephew of the former president, who was governor here from 1995 to 2000 - campaigned for land commissioner, a relatively low-profile position that some Republicans, including Dewhurst, have used as a steppingstone for higher office.
For Democrats, the primary was not nearly as competitive, although several races were noteworthy. The musician and humorist Kinky Friedman, who ran for governor in 2006, sought the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner. His name appeared on the ballot as Richard "Kinky" Friedman, and he advocated the legalization of marijuana.