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Cruz Easily Wins U.S. Senate Race

Michael Stravato, Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz, a Harvard-educated lawyer and Tea Party icon, easily won the U.S. Senate race Tuesday night, becoming the first Hispanic from Texas to land the job.

Cruz had a huge, insurmountable lead in early returns. In early statewide returns, his total was slightly behind Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's total, but the gap represented a relatively low number of split ballots. Romney was beating President Obama by more than 15 points with about 10 percent of the precincts reporting, according to early unofficial returns.

The outcome of the U.S. Senate race was never much in doubt. Democrats haven’t won statewide in Texas since 1994, and Democrat Paul Sadler had so little money — about 5 percent of what Cruz raised — that he couldn’t even afford to run a single TV ad hitting all media markets.

Sadler conceded before 9 p.m. in a brief address to supporters. At that point Cruz was winning 57-40. 

"I’m proud to stand in front of you and say we have a new senator-elect named Ted Cruz," Sadler said. "I want us to be proud in our response to the voters’ choices.” 

Cruz, a domestic policy adviser on George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and solicitor general of Texas from 2003 to 2008, is considered a brilliant legal scholar. But this will be his first job in elective office.

The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz was considered a long shot when he got into a crowded Republican primary that included the deep-pocketed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Cruz began that race on a shoestring budget and focused for months on building relationships among a far-flung network of Tea Party activists who came to make up the campaign’s most die-hard supporters. They relied largely on social media and candidate forums to spread their message, hoarding their campaign money for TV ads they knew they could not run until the final few weeks of the race.

Cruz’s defeat of Dewhurst in the July 31 runoff shocked the political establishment and set the stage for Cruz’s easy victory Tuesday night.

Sadler’s runoff with political novice Grady Yarbrough drew little interest by comparison, and only a fraction of the millions showered on the Republican primary.

A former state representative from East Texas, Sadler attempted to portray Cruz as an extremist who was out of step with mainstream Texas, even at the risk of coming across as strident and angry. In one Texas Tribune interview, Sadler took issue with Cruz's Canadian birth and his ties to Washington, saying, "He needs to go back to Washington where he’s from, or Canada, because he doesn’t reflect us." Later, in a debate, Sadler called Cruz a "troll," a comment he later said he regretted making. 

But Sadler, like a trail of Democrats before him, got almost no traction in the electorate and even less among donors. The latest campaign finance reports show the Democratic lawyer raised $600,000, compared with some $14 million raised by Cruz.

Jay Root is a native of Liberty. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business. It all started when he walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and realized it wasn't for him. Soon he was applying for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since. He has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Tribune.
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