Tea party darling Cruz wins Texas' US Senate race
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DALLAS (AP) - Texas overwhelmingly elected tea party-backed Republican Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, completing the former state solicitor general's once seemingly impossible rise from virtual unknown to the first Hispanic to represent the Lone Star State in the Senate.
The 41-year-old Houston attorney beat Democrat and former state Rep. Paul Sadler. He replaces retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Dallas.
Cruz has vowed to limit spending and shrink the size of government and promised to do so again during his victory speech in Houston, saying four more years with President Barack Obama "will be challenging indeed."
"If President Obama means what he says on the campaign trail, if he is interested in working to bring people together to reduce the deficit and get people working, then I will work with him," Cruz said. But he added that if the president continues to take the country "down this same path, then I will spend every waking moment to the fight to stop it."
In a subsequent phone interview, Cruz added he thought it "is unfortunately likely" that Obama "will insist on continuing down the same path of the past four years."
"If he does change, that will be a shift in course and it would be a shift I would certainly welcome," he told The Associated Press. "But it is not likely."
Sadler was in Austin and said in a subdued concession speech, "I am proud to stand in front of you and say we have a new senator-elect whose name is Ted Cruz."
Even before Election Day, Cruz had already changed the nature of Texas politics by shocking one of the state's most formidable establishment figures, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Cruz began the Republican primary polling at 2 percent. His father was born in Cuba and fought alongside Fidel Castro before his government embraced communism, then fled for Texas speaking no English and with 100 sowed into his underwear.
Born in Canada while his parents were there working in the oil fields, Cruz grew up mostly in Houston and has a fiery, populist oratory style that he honed while becoming a debate champion at Princeton and earning his law degree from Harvard.
Dewhurst, meanwhile, was the presumed next senator from Texas when the state Legislature adjourned in June 2011. Most observers considered Cruz - who was appointed solicitor general from 2003 to 2008 by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and had never before sought political office or won an election - an extreme fringe candidate vying only for recognition from the tea party wing of the GOP.
Dewhurst had the support of the state's conservative establishment, including Gov. Rick Perry. He had overseen the state Senate since 2003, and poured more than 20 million of his own personal fortune into his campaign.
But Cruz started a two-year slog of a campaign that took him to dozens of candidate forums Dewhurst skipped. He spent hundreds of hours convincing grassroots Republicans that a vote for Dewhurst was a vote for moderation. Cruz supports building a fence the length of the U.S.-Mexico border and has called for eliminating a string of federal departments.