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Moderates vs. Conservatives: Which Republican PACs Came Out On Top in the 2014 Primary?

by: Katie Singh

Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 01:00 PM CDT

After John Cornyn's and Greg Abbott's victories in the Texas Republican primary on March 4, the New York Times proclaimed that here in Texas, the Republican establishment had soundly beat back the Tea Party.

While that may have been true in Cornyn's and Abbott's specific races, the reality of the election was much more complex. Social conservatives prevailed over moderates in many legislative primary races. Several moderate Republican legislative incumbents lost, as extreme social conservatives took the lead in most races for statewide offices.

The Texas Legislature was the main battleground for social conservatives battling moderate Republicans. Several large Republican PACs, both moderate and conservative, had stakes in legislative races. BOR examined the endorsement records of four of them--the moderate, education-focused Texas Parent PAC, the more conservative Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and two extremely conservative PACS, the Young Conservatives of Texas and Michael Quinn Sullivan's Empower Texans PAC.

We looked at which candidates each PAC endorsed and how those candidates fared in the primary.

See which Republican PACs were winners and losers after the jump.

Looking at which PAC's candidates did the best, we found that moderate Republicans are still struggling, and the Tea Party is doing significantly better than one might think.

The table below summarizes the results of Texas legislative races where Texas Parent PAC, TLR, YCT and Empower Texans made endorsements.

Despite Parent PAC's effort to stand up to some of the more conservative voices who are slashing funding for public education, the social conservatives prevailed.

The conservative TLR PAC did the best of the bunch, with the most wins in legislative races. In contrast, Parent PAC fared the worst of the four, with the most losses.

YCT and Empower Texans, the most conservative PACs of the four, also did fairly well with 10 wins each. In addition, each was relatively successful at upending the Republican establishment, each unseating 5 incumbents. This flies in the face of the New York Times narrative of more moderate Republicans regaining control--establishment and moderate candidates are still struggling against the tide of "Tea Party" challengers.

What's more, the primary results made it very clear which side has the ideological edge in the Texas Legislature. Half of YCT and Empower Texans' victories were ousting more moderate Republican incumbents in favor of more conservative ones. Even the moderates who were victorious faced tough races, because of the conservative PACs' money and political clout.

YCT and Empower Texans' ability to oust incumbents they disagree with doesn't bode well for the remaining moderate Republicans in the Texas Legislature--they now know that disagreeing with the most conservative wing of the Republican Party could come at a steep price.

The only question that remains now how candidates facing runoffs will fare. Yet even if the remaining moderates rally, it's clear that the balance of power in the Legislature is still tipping toward the right.

As long as Republican primary voters are in charge of deciding who leads our state, it doesn't show signs of stopping.

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