Perry Beats Hutchison, Faces White In November

Texas Governor Rick Perry has survived a Republican primary election challenge from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tea Party candidate Debra Medina. Perry will face Houston Mayor Bill White, who won the Democratic primary.

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The state of Texas held its party primaries yesterday. Two prominent Republicans were running for governor, and the incumbent, Rick Perry scored an easy win over Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. As the night ended, the two bitter rivals were promising to make nice for the good of the party. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN: It was supposed to be a great battle between two powerhouse Republican politicians. It is exceedingly rare that a sitting U.S. senator leaves Washington to come home and take on an incumbent governor from the same party. But Texas Governor Rick Perry left Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson lying on the canvas and won the Republican primary outright, avoiding the runoff by garnering more than 50 percent.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Senator KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (Republican, Texas): Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

GOODWYN: Last night, Hutchison came down to address her supporters so early in the evening that they couldn't believe she was already throwing in the towel.

Sen. HUTCHISON: From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

GOODWYN: But she was.

Sen. HUTCHISON: I have called Governor Perry and congratulated him on his victory. Now we must unite. We must win Texas for Republicans and our conservative principles in November.

GOODWYN: If the Senator from Texas had trouble demonstrating to the Republican faithful that she had the requisite fire in the belly, Incumbent Rick Perry left little doubt. Perry warned Hutchison to stay out of the race. When she challenged him anyway, Perry promised he would make her sorry for her insolence, and last night he did. During the primary, Perry painted Hutchison as a sold-out Washington politician. Having dispatched her and Tea Party favorite Debra Medina, Perry continued with his successful line of attack. From the Salt Lick Barbecue Restaurant outside of Austin, the governor pointed out the enemy.

Governor RICK PERRY (Republican, Texas): So from Driftwood, Texas to Washington, D.C., we are sending you a message tonight. Stop messing with Texas.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOODWYN: Although Perry had just defeated two Republicans rivals in a primary, he described his victory as if it was a triumph over Democrats.

Gov. PERRY: There were a strain of victories that have come along here lately. There was a victory in New Jersey. There was a victory in Virginia. There was a victory in Massachusetts. And now there has been a victory in Texas.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOODWYN: But Perry's real opponent will not be in Washington, D.C. Bill White, the popular former mayor of Houston, won an even more resounding victory than Perry. White defeated Palestinian-born businessman Farouk Shami with more than 75 percent of the vote.

Mr. BILL WHITE (Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, Texas): Texas is ready for a new governor.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOODWYN: For more than a decade, Texas Democrats have wondered in the wilderness, unable to garner a single statewide office. But White, a well-funded moderate, is considered the best hope the party has had since Anne Richards lost her reelection bid to a largely unknown Republican named George W. Bush. If Rick Perry would like to make his campaign about Barack Obama, White seems happy to target the Texas governor.

Mr. WHITE: Texans deserve a new governor who will work harder to keep kids in school than he will just to keep running for office every single election, right?

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOODWYN: Rick Perry has served as Texas governor longer than any person in history. The next six months, we'll see if he can continue his streak.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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