What the Heck Happened in Texas? Gov. Rick Perry Easily Beats Kay Bailey Hutchison
Sitting Texas Governor Rick Perry won an easy victory over two challengers for the GOP nomination for governor, and in the end, the only thing terribly shocking about the race was that it was in question at all. With over 50 percent of the vote, Perry showed he was the clear favorite of Republicans, garnering enough votes over his challengers to avoid any potential runoff.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) came in a distant second at 30 percent, and Tea Party Activist Debra Medina had a low showing at 20 percent. Hutchison came into the race expecting to be a much more formidable challenger to Perry; as a sitting U.S. Senator her name recognition, record and fundraising prowess were expected to be daunting. But as the race continued on and party activist Debra Medina entered the fray, the campaign became less about the state of life in Texas and more about dissatisfaction with “Washington insiders,” the status quo, and underwent a renewed focus on the red meat social issues that have been whipping the national Republican party into a frenzy.
Bailey Hutchinson, with nearly two decades of service in Washington, and a slightly more moderate view on issues like abortion, eventually fell victim to a party who has begun begging for total purity and rigidity on all the issues important to the “value voters” brigade. Suddenly, being one of the most popular public figures in the state was a liability, and having a reputation for working with and being liked by other politicians was a strike against her candidacy. If you wanted to win, you had to prove you weren’t part of the “establishment.” As NPR put it, “Only a Republican incumbent like Perry could paint himself — as President Ronald Reagan did running for re-election in 1984 — as the outsider candidate.”
The longest serving governor in Texas history, “outsider” Rick Perry, found that in many ways his biggest challenge was coming from party activist Debra Medina. Although Medina never managed to poll above 20 percent in the race, her Tea Party rhetoric managed to influence Perry to travel even further to the right to shore up the party base’s vote. Perry had to woo the Tea Party, he was discussing seccession. He even had Sarah Palin in to campaign with him.
Medina’s actual outsider status, combined with her inability to keep her foot out of her mouth, including saying the government may had been involved in 9/11, made her virtually unelectable, but served its purpose in making the race about the resurgence of conservative pride over economics, unemployment, or any less flag-waving issues.
Perry will be running against former Houston mayor Bill White this November.