AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Texas Capitol is experiencing a bit of a political shakeup this week after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst lost his bid for the U.S. Senate to Ted Cruz. Now politicos are predicting his next move.
Immediately, Dewhurst will return to the Texas Senate to lead lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session. But after this primary, it is clear the legislature will have a very different makeup.
"The Texas House now has 40 members that are not coming back next time," said Ross Ramsey, managing editor of the Texas Tribune. "More than half of the House is going to be in their freshman or sophomore year. The Republicans are being replaced, in some measure, by more conservative Republicans.
That ultra-conservative stance is something that worked well for Dewhurst's runoff opponent and a string of other candidates statewide – and could be an even bigger hurdle in the future. Gov. Rick Perry – one of Dewhurst's biggest supporters in his recent race – has not ruled out running again for governor, and there is also speculation Dewhurst will do the same.
"With Dewhurst failing to win the Senate, it's possible that he could get into the race too for governor - although this week's defeat might have tarnished his reputation," said Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News.
By the start of the session in January, Dewhurst will be able to boast a decade in his current office. Before that, he was the state's land commissioner for four years. Together, his political tenure has amounted to more than enough for an anti-establishment attack.
Perry, who has been in public office since 1985 himself – might also see a similar challenge. Plus, he lost a bid for president this year, further tarnishing his political reputation in the state.
But before both Republicans saw their Washington chances crushed, another strong possibility was Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott – who Slater said could still be the frontrunner.
"Gov. Perry has indicated he intends to run for reelection, but even if he does, he could face a challenge from Greg Abbott or somebody else who sees Perry's influence as waning because of his failed presidential bid and his very public endorsement of Dewhurst," Slater said. "Perry put his political standing on the line for Dewhurst, but voters weren't buying."
Whether there will be some kind of Republican courtesy - a respect for those with a higher office - is yet to be seen. However, in a state where GOP officeholders keep their roles for as long as Perry and Dewhurst, this week's runoff could indicate voters are ready to see a significant change.
One possibility is Debra Medina, a tea party activist who ran against Perry in the GOP primary in 2010. Her conservative following lines up with the party shift seen recently in Texas, and she has already expressed an interest in running for governor or comptroller.
"Politics is about competition," said Ramsey. "If somebody looks at another candidate, whether it's Rick Perry or David Dewhurst and thinks they have a chance to beat them and wants that job, they'll run."
Depending on which path Dewhurst chooses, the race for lieutenant governor could change drastically. Comptroller Susan Combs is also reportedly eyeing the office, and Ag Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson have already both said they are running.
"Last night after the runoff, Jerry Patterson sent me a text saying he respected Dewhurst but that he's still running for lieutenant governor in 2014," Ramsey added.
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