- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, an El Paso Democrat who had scored a rare congressional endorsement from President Obama last month, was the only incumbent in either party to lose a primary race for federal office Tuesday in Texas.

The veteran congressman, first elected in 1996, had been considered a safe bet for re-election, but was upset by a former El Paso City Council member, Beto O’Rourke, a 39-year-old El Paso native who said he favors legalizing marijuana to ease drug violence on the border.

Mr. O’Rourke, who immediately becomes the favorite to win the overwhelmingly Democratic 16th Congressional District in the general election, had help from a new super PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability, which spent at least $195,000 for an anti-Reyes TV ad blitz before the election.

Still, Tuesday’s ouster of the 67-year-old congressman, a former Border Patrol sector chief who had been endorsed by both Mr. Obama and former President Clinton, was one of the few surprising results on a day when most incumbents, including some targeted by Republicans in redistricting, won easily.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat who was redrawn into an unfavorable district after the 2010 census, thwarted Republican mapmakers by jumping to a new San Antonio-based district and handily winning the Democratic primary nomination over two Hispanic challengers.

Mr. Doggett’s win came in one of two new districts — Texas gained four new seats after the 2010 census — that were specifically drawn to reflect the growing political power of Hispanics in the state. The other district, near Dallas and Fort Worth, produced a runoff between Rep. Marc Veasy, a black state lawmaker, and Domingo Garcia, a former state legislator.

In South Texas, former Rep. Nick Lampson, a Houston-area Democrat looking to make a political comeback, won his party’s nomination to run for the seat being left open by retiring Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican. Two Republicans, state Rep. Randy Weber and lawyer Felicia Harris, emerged from a crowded GOP field and will face off on July 31 for the right to face Mr. Lampson.

With Mitt Romney’s victory in the Republican presidential primary a foregone conclusion — he finished with 69 percent of the vote to Mr. Paul’s 12 percent — the biggest race of the day featured Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst taking on a crowded field of Republicans looking to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

As expected, Mr. Dewhurst and former state solicitor general Ted Cruz finished first and second, respectively, to move on to the July 31 runoff, but commentators and political pundits around the state noted that the bitterly contested race between the two Republicans tightened dramatically in the days leading up to the primary.

Mr. Cruz, a tea party favorite who finished with 34 percent of the vote to Mr. Dewhurst’s 45 percent, predicted that the lower voter turnout expected in the runoff will blunt his opponent’s advantages in name recognition and funding.

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