The Brief: Big Turnout Lifts Cruz, Clinton to Texas Victories

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The Big Conversation

Texas voters turned out en masse on Tuesday, lifting Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton to victories in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

Both party contests had generated a high level of interest. Cruz desperately needed a win to bolster his argument that Republicans should rally around him as the best alternative to Donald Trump. Clinton, meanwhile, wanted to leverage her longtime ties to Texas Democrats to solidify her advantage over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Texas voters came through for both candidates in a big way. On the Republican side, participation had surged past 2.5 million with more than 80 percent of precincts counted. Cruz had won 1.1 million votes. Clinton, meanwhile, had taken close to 900,000 votes out of almost 1.4 million votes cast.

But for all the talk of high turnout spurred by newcomers to the process, down ballot incumbents fared well for the most part. House Speaker Joe Straus won his re-election contest handily. Two close allies, state Reps. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, also won. Cook’s win, though, was dramatic as he trailed the challenger Thomas McNutt for most of the evening before posting a final winning margin of 222 votes.

Anti-Straus incumbents also did well with state Reps. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, both winning easily despite drawing organized opposition from establishment elements in the party.

The House incumbents who lost Tuesday night were split more or less evenly between Straus allies — Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, and Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball — and anti-Straus members — Molly White, R-Belton, and Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman.

And despite speculation that some incumbent Supreme Court justices and GOP congressmen might get caught up in an anti-incumbent tsunami, they all held on to their seats with varying degrees of ease.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.