All eyes were on Alabama, Tuesday, as incumbent Luther Strange and conservative firebrand Roy Moore faced off in the state’s Republican senate primary. Moore won, despite the fact that Strange was supported by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The race will be decided next month, when Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones. And the upset of Strange, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has many wondering whether other Republican incumbents should be worried. Even in Texas.
Moore, who was twice chief justice of the state's Supreme Court, is outspoken and controversial. He positioned himself to the right of the Republican establishment.
Sean Theriault, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin says more primary challenges are likely, but he isn’t sure there will be more victories.
“I think incumbents in Texas, especially in the Republican Party, are breathing a little heavier this morning, given the results that happened in Alabama on Tuesday,” Theriault says.
Among the Texas congressional delegation, Theriault says Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) could have a target on his head. Brady is chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
“His stock is gonna go way down if we don’t get tax overhaul,” Theriault says. “And I think he could be seriously challenged.
Theriault says there’s a split in the Republican Party between business-friendly Republicans, and those who are frustrated by “eight years of Obama.”
“They’re ready to do just about anything they can to ruffle the feathers of incumbents in Washington, and to disrupt politics as we normally practice it,” Theriault says.
He thinks Republicans see the disrupters in the party as being on the rise.
“The danger for them, of course, is that it’s hard to construct a majority in a lot of states – in Alabama, I suspect Roy Moore will do all right – but in some of these other states, I think the Republican Party is putting itself in peril by going with these candidates who are a little bit outside the mainstream,” he says.
Theriault acknowledges that being outside the mainstream was central to Trump’s winning formula. He suggests that, like Moore, Trump benefitted from weakness in his more mainstream opponent.
“Hillary Clinton certainly had her flaws, and there was a certain type of reaction that a segment of the Republican Party, and the general electorate had against her,” Theriault says.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz probably has less to worry about.
"I just can't imagine anyone getting to the other side of Ted Cruz and being a disrupter in the Senate," Theriault says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.