It is an odd place to stage a conservative mutiny; conservatives already run everything in Texas.
Republicans hold all major statewide offices and both arms of the state legislature. The Lone Star State has low taxes, light regulations and skimpy public services.
Lefties loathe it; businesses can’t wait to move there. So what exactly is the Texan wing of the Tea Party upset about?
Plenty, if this week’s primary run-offs are anything to go by. David Dewhurst, the lieutenant-governor, was hoping to remain in office for a fourth term. His biography is not obviously bearded or sandal-wearing: a former air force officer, he has worked for the CIA and made a fortune in finance and ranching.
He favours the death penalty but frowns on taxes and art that insults Jesus. While he has been in office, growth and job creation have been better in Texas than in most other states.
Yet this record was not flinty enough to ward off a primary challenge. His chief rival, Dan Patrick, a state senator, accused Mr Dewhurst of squishiness on the flimsiest of evidence. For example, he claimed that Mr Dewhurst had left the Senate chamber during last summer’s debate over a new abortion law to eat steak with a lobbyist.
After several months, Mr Dewhurst broke down: he had indeed gone to a steakhouse that night, although he had eaten chicken. Whether chicken was the trouble, or the storms that swept through Texas on election day and kept voters away from the polls, Mr Patrick won the run-off on May 27th.
A Tea-Party challenger won the Republican nomination for a race for the US House of Representatives, too. John Ratcliffe, a small-town mayor, beat 91-year-old Ralph Hall, the oldest member of Congress.
In the primary for state attorney-general another state senator, Ken Paxton, emblazoned his campaign website with a snapshot he had taken next to US Senator Ted Cruz, a former state solicitor general whose unlikely primary victory two years ago inspired a gaggle of backbench Texan Republicans to revolt.
Mr Paxton attacked his opponent, Dan Branch, for having proposed in 2005 an amendment to an amendment that would have made a pending abortion law slightly less stringent–a grave offence. Mr Paxton won.
The primary election itself, on a cold and even snowy day in March, was a mixed bag for the Tea-infused challengers. Those who forced the establishment candidates into a run-off did better.
Voter turnout in Texas is always tepid; about 10% of registered voters cast ballots in the Republican primary this year. In the run-offs the figure was a little more than half that, and in most of the high-profile races the louder conservative candidate prevailed. Mr Patrick won by a nearly two-to-one margin, and declared it a “mandate”.
It was certainly a bitter blow for Mr Dewhurst, who, having served as lieutenant-governor since 2003, is among the Republicans who have been in charge during a decade of economic success that has given millions of Texans the opportunity to ignore state politics altogether. But Mr Dewhurst, having at first blamed his defeat on the horrid weather on both election days, ended his speech graciously, by calling on Republicans to move past the pratfalls of the primary season: “We must unite to win in November.”
United or not, they have little to worry about. In the Democratic run-offs, voters opted for a millionaire dentist as their Senate nominee rather than the woman who proposed to impeach Barack Obama and industrialise the moon.
For agriculture commissioner they settled on a former dairy farmer called Jim Hogan, who had asked voters to Google “Jim Hogan Texas agriculture commissioner” because he had no campaign website.
When contacted by reporters after the run-off results came in, he told them that he was at home making stew. In ordinary-Joe check shirt and baseball cap, he will now face Sid Miller, resplendent in white Stetson, blazer and tie, and already looking as self-satisfied as a Texas Republican should.
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