Texas primary: Kay Bailey Hutchison couldn't pull a Sarah Palin

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison failed in her GOP primary challenge to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. History shows it's difficult to oust a sitting governor. Sarah Palin, in 2006, was the last to do it.

Tony Gutierrez/AP
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas acknowledges support from her husband Ray and others following her speech conceding from the Republican nomination for Texas governor in Dallas on Tuesday.

Conservative political star Sarah Palin was the last candidate to successfully challenge an incumbent governor when she defeated Frank Murkowski in Alaska’s 2006 Republican primary election.

In fact, incumbent governors have lost to challengers only 25 times since the 1940s, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Cook Political Report. US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was the latest candidate to try and fail when she sought to thwart Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his bid for a third full term.

Not a good market test

Governor Perry used a consistent anti-Washington message against the senator, but the results of the race may not be a great market test of the effectiveness of this strategy in other races.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who served two terms as mayor of Dallas, says there was no big political message in Perry’s 20-point primary victory Tuesday. Tea party favorite Debra Medina took 18 percent of the vote.

Speaking to a Monitor-sponsored lunch for reporters on Wednesday, Kirk said, “I don’t know that we have learned a lot more from the primary. I thought it was fairly inventive of our governor to try to compare what some people would perceive at least [as] the reasonably red state of Texas to an election result in Massachusetts in delivering some greater message.”

The Dallas Morning News reported that after Hutchison conceded, Perry told supporters, “Hardworking Texas sent a simple, compelling message to Washington: Quit spending all the money.”

Complicating factors

But the Cook Political Report notes that Perry’s message may not be easily duplicated in other races. “While it’s unclear how much resonance that message will have, this primary doesn’t seem to be a particularly good test case,” the latest issue of the subscription-based report said.

“While a majority of Texas voters believe that the country is off on the wrong track, polling conducted during the primary showed that a majority think the state is headed in the right direction,” the political newsletter said. “Plus, this primary wasn’t about sending someone new to Washington in the hopes of changing it. It was about who Republicans want to guide Texas through the next four years,”

The publication rates the race between Perry and Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Houston Mayor Bill White as a tossup.

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