As the Tea Party wave crashes through the Republican Primary runoff, perceived establishment candidates are not the only ones being smashed on the shore. Texas trial lawyers made a major play this cycle in three Texas Senate races on the Republican side, and are now in the final stages of being swept out to sea.
Four Senators did not seek reelection: Ogden, Shapiro, Jackson and Harris; and Sen. Wentworth clearly was vulnerable. Two of the five races were not competitive. In the Ogden seat, Rep. Charles Schwertner crushed his self-funding opponent 75% - 25%; and Rep. Ken Paxton was unopposed in the race to succeed Sen. Shapiro.
The Jackson, Harris and Wentworth seats were/are the three competitive races. The Jackson seat became a grudge match between Rep. Larry Taylor and Steve Mostyn. Mostyn, President of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, lavishly funded Dave Norman who opposed Taylor. Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) similarly funded Taylor. It wasn’t even close: Taylor won going away with 58.2% of the vote.
In the Harris seat, Rep. Kelly Hancock crushed Rep. Todd Smith 65% to 35%. Smith, a trial lawyer, was heavily funded by trial lawyer interests; TLR and its supporters contributed heavily to Hancock.
The title bout between TLR and trial lawyers is now the runoff between Sen. Jeff Wentworth and Dr. Donna Campbell. TLR targeted Sen. Wentworth for defeat, and trial lawyers came to his defense. TLR’s candidate, Elizabeth Ames Jones, did not make the runoff, so TLR switched its support to Campbell. Recent tracking polls show Wentworth trailing Campbell by double digits. At this point, it appears likely that Sen. Wentworth will lose.
That will bring us to the Mother of All Texas Senate races in November: Sen. Wendy Davis (D – Fort Worth) vs. Rep. Mark Shelton (R- Fort Worth). It will be yet another proxy battle between trial lawyers and TLR. If trial lawyers are to avoid going 0 – 4 in Texas Senate races, they will need Sen. Davis to prevail in this 55% Republican district. She has done it before, but in 2008 the Libertarian took 2.56% of the vote providing her margin of victory over Sen. Brimer. This year there is no Libertarian on the ballot, and there is a Tea Party wave instead of an Obama wave.
At this point, it appears that establishment Republicans and trial lawyers may float out into the Gulf together after being swamped by a Tea Party election wave.