Wither the hairy legged moderate man of the State Senate? Jeff Wentworth, who hasn't always kowtowed the Republican Party line, may be at the end of his two-decade career in the Senate, which spans 7 terms and began in 1993 when Ann Richards was still Governor. Wentworth, loathed by this publication for his staunch support for the Guns on Campus legislation, has been moderate on choice and environmental issues, which has made him something of a pariah in this Republican primary. He voted against the sonogram bill in the Senate, the lone Republican to do so. It may be his undoing in the runoff, where he faces run-off challenger and right-wing extremist Dr. Donna Campbell, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Furthering Wentworth's potential demise is a volley of outside money from Texans for Lawsuit reform, owing to his lack of orthodoxy on tort reform. TLR spent heavily on Elizabeth Ames Jones, third place finisher, and in so doing helped bruise Wentworth in the first round. Now the group is lining up behind Campbell.
Campbell gained traction in the grassroots Tea Party community with her 2010 run against Lloyd Doggett in 2010 in CD-25. She then moved into SD-25 to challenge Wentworth, arguably in electoral conditions and a district even more favorable to her than CD-25 in a general election. Fittingly, in the first round of the primary, she won in the Travis and Hays portions of the district, which overlapped with the old CD-25. She also ran strong in staunchly conservative Comal, where she moved when she announced her bid. Campbell's second-place finish surprised many, due in part to the great gobs of money TLR shelled out to back EAJ, who stepped down from the Railroad Commission to run for the seat and placed 3rd in a very close primary.
Wentworth has been on the receiving end of attacks from all sides in this race, and it's tough to see how he prevails, especially since EAJ and TLR have moved over to back Campbell in a desperate effort to oust the incumbent. Wentworth runs strongest in his home turf of San Antonio, but with 36% of the Bexar vote going to EAJ in the first round, it's not clear if those voters will gravitate back to Wentworth or go with the challenger. Redistricting is also a factor here, as Wentworth loses much of his Travis County turf -- the district used to stretch up through central south Austin, where possibly some remaining moderate Republicans turning out for Dewhurst could have pulled the lever for Wentworth.
Things don't look good for Wentworth, and as a result the Texas Senate will likely shift even further to the far right. It's possible -- in the Dumb and Dumber one-in-a-million, "so you're telling me there's a chance" kind of possible -- that Democratic nominee John Courage could best Dr. Donna in November if moderate voters find out just how extreme she is on just about every issue possible. However, Courage would need substantial resources to communicate that to the voters. Last session, the Senate was able to stop much of the crazy legislation passed by the lower chamber. Now, with the additions of Kelly Hancock and Larry Taylor, the body shifts to the right. The loss of Wentworth for Dr. Donna will further this trend, all of which makes holding Democratic Senator Wendy Davis's seat this November all the more crucial in preventing the upper chamber from completely descending into anti-civilization madness.
County-by-county results below:
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