AUSTIN, TEXAS — DEMOCRAT-turned-Republican Greg Laughlin became the first congressman to be ousted this year, losing in a runoff to former Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul.
In another upset, Cinderella candidate Victor Morales captured the Democratic nomination in Texas' Senate runoff and will face Republican Phil Gramm in November.
A high school government teacher, Mr. Morales narrowly defeated Rep. John Bryant (D) of Dallas, a 14-year House veteran.
The grandson of Mexican immigrants, Morales says he is eager to face Senator Gramm, whose opposition to affirmative action prompted him to enter the race. "I'd like to make a challenge to Mr. Gramm: Mr. Gramm, beat me on the issues, beat me on your record," he said Tuesday.
The 14th District runoff between Mr. Laughlin, a four-term incumbent, and Mr. Paul, a former Republican congressman who ran for president in 1988 on the Libertarian ticket and then returned to the GOP fold, focused on their conservative credentials.
Paul proclaimed himself the true conservative in the race, citing Laughlin's former political identity as a Democrat. One of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Laughlin was among five congressmen who switched to the Republican Party after the 1994 GOP landslide.
Laughlin's defeat is sure to embarrass party leaders such as House Speaker New Gingrich, who had rewarded him with a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee after his party switch last summer and who worked hard to ensure his victory.
In El Paso's 16th District, former Border Patrol sector chief Silvestre Reyes won a Democratic congressional runoff to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Coleman. He will face Republican nominee Rick Ledesma in November.