Did the Tea Party Reach Its High Tide in North Texas?

Tuesday’s Republican primary election was practically a clean sweep for tea party-backed candidates in the North Texas area. They either fended off more conventional Republican challengers or were the top vote-getter heading into their respective primary run-offs.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (Hurst-Euless-Bedford) commanded a strong reelection victory over a candidate funded by the realtor and gas lobbies. Don Huffines beat veteran incumbent John Carona for a state senate nomination. Konni Burton has the edge in her run-off later this month for the chance to claim the senate seat being departed by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Their races were seen as a bellwether of the tea party’s reign locally, but this could be the movement’s high mark if trends continue.

With the exception of state Sen. Dan Patrick, there weren’t any victorious grassroots tea party candidates in the eight legislative or executive statewide races. Patrick’s headed for a run-off with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who Patrick endorsed in a failed US Senate bid against Ted Cruz. However, tea party candidates aren’t making ground in races where districts aren’t stacked to avoid competitive general elections with Democrats. As a movement, the tea party is more unpopular than ever.

Not coincidentally I think, the tea party movement has been drifting away from its core message of challenging reckless fiscal and monetary policies. It’s basically laxed the libertarian message that resonated with weary voters. Now you’re as likely to find tea party candidates stressing their interventionist immigration policies or making something of their religious credentials in how they oppose marriage equality. If that trend continues, I think the tea party movement’s better days are behind it.