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A Day After Texas Primaries, Analysis Contains Perils

Updated: Wednesday, March 5 2014, 02:03 PM CST

The dust is beginning to settle and an eerie calm has descended on state politics after Tuesday night's great clash of candidates known as the 2014 Texas party primaries. And as with any of history's other great battles, writers and analysts are already divining the results in order to tease out the recondite lessons the god Demos has coyly revealed through the people's capricious selection and rejection of the various candidates. But without the handy perspective of time, the task is as useful as describing the entirety of the Sistine Chapel after a ten-second peek at its famed ceiling. From six inches away. With one eye closed.

To that end, any think-pieces published between now and, say, early November should be taken with a heart-stopping level of salt. Shoehorning a narrative onto Texas politics may seem like a convenient way to digest the unseemly soap operas of power but the actual task is not unlike putting stilettos on a bull: It sounds funny on paper, you have to be stink-drunk to try it, and the only way it can possibly end is with a trip to the ER.

Take for example, the myriad articles either declaring the resurgence of the tea party in state Republican ranks or the ultimate redemption of the business-friendly establishment. Depending on which race in which county you look at, this could be true or, more importantly, false. Sen. John Cornyn crushed his supposedly tea party-backed opponent, Rep. Steve Stockman, but State Sen. John Carona lost his longtime seat by a hair to Dallas-area real estate developer Don Huffines, a political neophyte who scored support from national figures like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

In both cases, however, the narrative is still slippery. Stockman's campaign appeared to consist mostly of endless tweets labeling Cornyn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, a liberal Judas who betrayed his junior colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz. Only the most ardent tea party groups maintained vocal support for him by the end. And the Carona/Huffines match-up could be seen as a referendum on incumbency since Carona has held the office since the Clinton administration. Also, while Carona is seen as the most moderate (read: establishment) Republican in the state senate, Huffines himself is a well-connected Dallas millionaire whose older brother's resume includes gigs with governors going back to Bill Clements as well as two separate stints as the chairman of the UT System Board of Regents.

The search for storylines on the Democratic side doesn't fall short of the Manichean either. In Travis County, two contested races ended with victories for familiar faces. Sarah Eckhardt bested Andy Brown to replace outgoing Judge Sam Biscoe. And former Austin city councilwoman Brigid Shea won the chance seek election for Precinct 2 (both women are heavily favored to win November's general election). Eckhardt and Shea are both relatively high-profile figures on the local scene and they're both generally linked to an older, mellower time before Central Texas' explosive growth. But it could also be they benefited from a sisterly surge of women voters eager to cast ballots for Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte who combined for the first two-woman team at the top of a statewide ticket.

(Also, let's not begin to try to parse what happened in the Democratic race for the senate nomination.)

All in all, a perilous task awaits anyone presumptuous enough to scale the heights overlooking the battered field looking for cohesive truths. And why bother when there are still plenty of runoffs to watch?

By Caleb Pritchard, KEYE TV News Producer

A Day After Texas Primaries, Analysis Contains Perils


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