Two-term incumbent Rick Perry will get a shot at a third term as governor after prevailing in the Republican primary Tuesday. Perry crushed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Tea Party favorite Debra Medina by garnering more than 52 percent of the vote with a third of the precincts reporting, allowing him to avoid an April run-off and focus on the general election.
Today’s primary was supposed to be a heated contest between Perry and the moderate Hutchinson, but with Perry enjoying a huge lead in recent polls the question turned quickly to whether Medina could garner enough of the vote to force a run-off.
Hutchinson conceded at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night when it became clear Perry would garner the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off. Despite starting with a strong lead her campaign faltered and the three-term senator allowed Perry to portray her as a member of the Washington establishment, out of touch with the concerns of regular Texans.
Perry’s opponent in the general will be former Houston mayor Bill White, who cruised to victory in the Democratic primary. White, a former three-term mayor of Houston, didn’t face a serious challenge in the primary and is currently running six points behind Perry in the polls despite low name recognition outside Houston.
There had been some concern that Perry’s mixed record as a fiscal conservative would prevent him from securing a majority of the vote, but earlier on Tuesday campaign spokesman Mike Miner portrayed the governor as united with the recent grassroots uprising in conservative activism.
“Gov. Perry has been very involved in the Tea Party movement, he shares the same concerns,” Miner said, citing federal spending, earmarks, the fiscal deficit and taxpayer-funded bailouts as among the issues on which Perry sympathizes with Tea Party activists.
Perry’s support on those issues was not enough to prevent those activists from propelling the candidacy of Debra Medina, a former GOP county chairwoman with a libertarian bent. Medina’s candidacy gathered steam after two impressive debate performances in January, but her rise was stalled after she fumbled a question from Glenn Beck related to 9/11 “truthers.” Medina’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
With a tough general election looming, it will be critical for Perry to secure the support of both the Tea Partiers and the moderate suburban crowd that comprises Hutchinson’s base. Miner said the governor is happy to run on his record, which he claims has Texas in better shape than almost any other state. Whether or not voters agree with that assessment will be the crucial question this fall when Perry looks to extend his term to a record 14 years.