Texas governor race results : GOP bellwether or blip?

Texas Governor Rick Perry

The GOP Candidate for the Texas Governor's Race. Image from Flickr.

In Texas, the Republican governor’s race primary results are in, and it’s leaving everyone wondering if these results – with conservative Rick Perry taking the win –  are going to show us the direction of the next election. The deeply divided Republican party showed it’s fissures during this race – and issues like taxes, how Washington D.C. approaches national debt management, and even the candidate’s personal finances came into question.

Three candidates for the Texas governor’s race

In the race for a chance to run as the Republican candidate for Texas governor, there were three major contenders – all of whom used fast cash to try and get ahead. Governor Rick Perry cast himself as the social and fiscal conservative. Senator Kay Hutchinson ran on her Washington DC service credentials. Debra Medina was effectively the third-party candidate, running on her “tea party” conservative activism.

Texas governor Rick Perry chosen by 51%

Current Texas governor Rick Perry, entered the 2010 race with a single, strong message. He capitalized on the Republican party’s frustration with Washington D.C. This included a heavily financially conservative platform – calling for less spending across the board – no more short-term loans in Washington. This message reverberated with voters, and the results of the Texas governor’s race were that 51% voted for this “down-home hero.”

Hutchinson felled by Texas conservatism

Kay Hutchinson is a Republican U.S. senator, and has a long history of debating against health care reform and other democratic initiatives. Her social and financially conservative policies make her popular with D.C. Republicans. However, in the Texas governor’s race, she was very effectively cast as simply out of touch. Many ads painted Hutchinson as an “insider” desperate to provide unsecured loans to any government program. Partially because of this perception, only 31% of Republican voters chose Hutchinson for the governor’s race candidate.

Texas governor’s race results shows third-party power

While it is only a small cross-section of conservative Texas, the GOP governor’s race primary showed the power of the tea party. Vehemently anti-establishment and anti-spending, Debra Medina secured 19% of the Texas vote. While the tea party is not an official third party, but instead works within the Republican party, the Texas governor’s race results are showing the power that this popular movement may be able to have on national elections.

A starting point for midterm elections

The Texas governor’s race results offer just a small cross-section view of relatively conservative Texas. As one of the first primaries before the 2010 midterm elections, however, they offer an interesting starting point to the question of how those elections will go.