Pot, Hookers, and LaRouchies: Another Night in Texas

| Wed May 30, 2012 9:58 AM EDT
US House Candidate Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas).

Mitt Romney won the Texas Republican primary on Tuesday, clinching the Republican presidzzz zzzzzzzz zzzzzz. Sorry. It just wasn't that suspenseful. But while Mitt's big win—and Ted Cruz forcing David Dewhurst into a runoff in the Republican Senate primary—will grab most of the headlines, it was the down-ballot races in Tuesday's election that actually made the most news.

Here are seven things you may have missed:

  • An Anti-Drug War progressive knocked off an eight-term incumbent: In El Paso, progressive Beto O'Rourke beat eight-term Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes, and he did it without running away from the issue that brought him to prominence—the War on Drugs, which he considers to be an utter failure. Washington might not be able to talk about weed without making dumb pot jokes, but in far West Texas, they may have turned a corner. The other lesson from this race is that it's possible to survive an attack ad featuring you falling on the floor and being spanked by a female colleague. I'd say that in no other nation is this story even possible, but that'd be an obvious affront to Italy.
  • The Internet couldn't stop Lamar Smith: The Republican author of SOPA pretty much guaranteed himself a 14th term in the House after dispatching web entrepreneur Richard Morgan and Oathkeeper Richard Mack. That was despite the best efforts of the folks at Test PAC, the first PAC organized and operated by the Reddit community. Test PAC ended up spending $11,000 on television ads and bought a billboard on I-10, but that's chump change against a powerful incumbent. Ultimately, the infusion of cash from outside groups Test PAC was clamoring for never came.
  • Jim DeMint giveth and he taketh away: Sen. DeMint (R-S.C.) is claiming victory after his candidate, Ted Cruz, garnered just enough vote to trigger a runoff primary in July. But his magic, such as it is, is fleeting. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, a bow tie-wearing black Republican, was DeMint's pick to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison two years ago and considered a rising star. But Hutchison never quit her job after losing to Rick Perry in the governor's race, and Williams decided to run for Congress in the open 25th district. Without DeMint's backing this time, he finished 6th in a 12-man field and didn't even crack double digits.
  • A LaRouchie won a House primary: Two years ago, Kesha Rogers won the Democratic nomination for Texas' 22nd congressional district and the state party vowed it would never happen again. Why? Because Rogers is an acolyte of Lyndon LaRouche, and has campaigned on the platform of impeaching President Obama (also, a bit more pragmatically, saving NASA). LaRouche is kind of a nut, as this 2004 Washington Post story makes clear. Texas Democrats, understandably embarrassed by Rogers' popularity, made an effort to educate voters this time around, to no avail—Rogers won by 91 votes. Here's a photo of Rogers holding up a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache. I think the operative hashtag here is #DemsInDisarray.
  • Texas' top birther is done: State Rep. Leo Berman (R) is famous in these parts for introducing a bill demanding that President Obama produce his birth certificate and for attempting to ban Islamic Shariah law. (He also sponsored a secession rally.) But he's a lame duck after losing to challenger Matt Schaefer. Per the Texas Tribune: "Berman, who is battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma, had said that he was retiring after the last legislative session but decided to run again after meeting Schaefer, whom he described as arrogant."
  • Karma's a real you-know-what: Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley lost in his bid for re-election. Why should you care? Because Williamson was the D.A. at the center of two of the state's most egregious criminal justice scandals in the last decade. For six years he refused to allow DNA testing that would have exonerated Michael Morton (who was serving life with the possibility of parole for the murder of his wife). Bradley was also responsible for scuttling the 2009 investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission into the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, whom arson experts believe could not have set the fire that killed his two kids.
  • Craig James "Killed Five Hookers At SMU," his political career. The ESPN college football analyst and former Southern Methodist University star found himself on the wrong end of the most potent Google-bomb this side of Santorum during his failed GOP senate run. Search for his name on the web and you'll find some variation of the phrase "Craig James Killed Five Hookers at SMU." Like so:
  • This Google bomb is merely a product of the larger problem, though, which is that no one really likes Craig James—not football fans; not Texas Tech alumni, who blame him for getting their program's best-ever coach fired. (Texas Monthy's Bryan Curtis had a nice sketch of James last month.) For all those shortcomings, however, he did end up with a super-PAC, Real World Conservatives, willing to chip in $120,000—donor to date unknown—on his behalf.

 

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