AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republicans picked the state’s attorney general in the fight to succeed longtime Gov. Rick Perry, while a rising Democratic star coasted to her party’s nomination Tuesday night during the nation’s first statewide primary.
Warnings about Democrat Wendy Davis’ star-making run for Texas governor threatening two decades of Republican dominance dealt complacent conservatives a new reason to vote. So did a rare opportunity to select an entirely new stable of leaders after 14 years under Perry.
Attorney General Greg Abbott clinched the Republican nomination for governor and Davis locked up her party’s selection, thereby making official a showdown poised to become a record-shattering arms race of fundraising in a Texas gubernatorial election.
Abbott, who only three weeks ago unapologetically campaigned with shock rocker Ted Nugent, never mentioned Davis in becoming the GOP’s first new gubernatorial nominee other than Perry since George W. Bush in 1998.
Democrats set on breaking the nation’s longest losing streak in races for statewide office, meanwhile, hoped a charismatic headliner in Davis would turn out long-dormant voters.
Davis, who catapulted to national political stardom last summer with a nearly 13-hour filibuster over abortion restrictions, is the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since Ann Richards in 1994.
She has said publicly that she supports marriage equality for gays and lesbians, and has called on Abbott to stop defending the Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Her underdog campaign has raised $16 million so far behind a whopping 91,000 individual donors and big checks from abortion-rights groups.
The last time Texas had so many open statewide seats was 2002, when Perry won his first full term. While Democrats ran mostly unopposed in their primaries, GOP runoffs were set for later this month to settle races for attorney general and agriculture commissioner.
Illinois holds the nation’s next primary March 18, followed by a flood of state primaries in May and June.
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