Tea party darling Cruz wins Texas’ senate race

Texas overwhelmingly elected tea party-backed Republican Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, completing the former state solicitor general’s once seemingly impossible rise from virtual unknown to the first Hispanic to represent the Lone Star State in the Senate.

The 41-year-old Houston attorney beat Henderson’s Democratic candidate and former state Rep. Paul Sadler, 57. Cruz replaces retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Dallas.

In a subdued concession speech at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Sadler said he honored the process and so was “proud to stand in front of you and say that we have a new Senator-elect named Ted Cruz.”

Sadler added that Democrats helped to create an important debate on issues including immigration and health care.

“But now, our response as Texans, as Americans, we stand up and say to the world, ‘This is the vote,’” he said. “We link arms together and go forward as a state, forward as a nation, because that’s who we are. We are proud Democrats, but we are proud Texans first and proud Americans first.”

Sadler was considered by many pundits to be an unlikely candidate, stepping up after retired Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez dropped out.

Texas Democrats gave Sadler less than $1 million in a state where a statewide campaign typically costs more than six times that. Sadler didn’t have enough money to flood television airwaves with commercials in most parts of the state, and struggled to spread his message since Cruz only agreed to attend two debates — one broadcast during Friday night high school football games.

“Our state is worth the fight and our country is worth the fight,” Sadler said in a phone interview with the Associated Press, about a campaign that was a long shot from the start. “We expanded the debate and made people think maybe about issues a little deeper.”

The campaign got heated at times, with Sadler even calling Cruz “a troll” during one debate. But he said the pair will now work together for the good of the state.

When asked if that will be difficult, Sadler joked: “For two lawyers that’s not tough at all. That’s the fun part.”

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