Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Two Texas Republicans Square Off for Senate

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz is considered to be one of the two top-tier candidates for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat.

He has already put some of his personal fortune to use in the campaign, writing a $2 million check to pad the $2.64 million he raised from individual donors in the first weeks of his campaign. He’s expected to spend more as needed down the stretch.

Cruz, on the other hand, has become a cause célèbre for tea party activists around the country. He’s picked up endorsements from Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson, FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth and tea party darlings Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.).

However, Cruz does have establishment ties. His campaign has been playing up his recent appearance on the cover of National Review, and he took his teenage fixation on free-market policies with him to Princeton University and eventually Harvard Law School. He also clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and later served as one of his pallbearers.

John Drogin, Cruz’s campaign manager, is a former staffer to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Drogin is a known quantity in Texas circles, and his decision to sign on with Cruz gives the campaign credibility with Republicans in Washington, D.C., and Austin. Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is not getting involved publicly in the primary.

Electorally, however, Cruz is unproven and his name identification statewide is lagging. His only previous run for public office was a short stint as a Texas attorney general candidate, a race from which he withdrew when it became clear the sitting attorney general, Greg Abbott, would run for re-election. Cruz’s highest profile job to date, solicitor general, is an appointed position.

He raised about $1 million in the third quarter, which in many states is a healthy total. However, his funding pales in comparison to Dewhurst’s deep pockets and fundraising totals.

Texas is an expensive state with multiple big media markets where it can cost about $1 million to air ads statewide for a week.

Cruz plans to counter the television and money advantage with active grass-roots supporters.

“The way to defeat an air war is with a good ground game,” Cruz told Roll Call in early October.

Despite the focus on Cruz and Dewhurst, there are two other prominent Republicans in the primary race. Elizabeth Ames Jones currently holds the statewide elected position of Railroad Commissioner chairman, which is the government arm that regulates energy. She is considered to have a bright future in Texas politics, but the $235,000 she raised in the third quarter was dwarfed by the top two candidates’ money.

Also running for the Republican nod is former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. He is expected to do well in the Dallas area, and in his tenure as mayor he frequently appeared on local newscasts in a media market that extends to neighboring Fort Worth and the cities’ shared suburbs.

It has been difficult to be an ambitious Republican in Texas in the past 17 years. Only once since George W. Bush was elected governor in 1994 has there been an open-seat race for governor or Senate.

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