Rice political scientist available to comment on hotly contested Texas US Senate race

David Ruth
713-348-6327
david@rice.edu

Amy Hodges
713-348-6777
amy.hodges@rice.edu 

HOUSTON — (May 16, 2012) — As the race to replace outgoing United States Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison heats up, who will emerge victorious in the May 29 primary? Rice University political scientist Mark Jones is available to comment on the hotly contested race to be Texas’ next U.S. senator.

“The May 29 Republican Senate primary involves two distinct contests, the first of which first pits Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst against the eight other Republican candidates in his attempt to gain the 50 percent plus one of the vote needed to avoid a July 31 runoff,” Jones said. “The second pits Ted Cruz versus Tom Leppert for the coveted second spot in the potential July 31 runoff.”

Jones said while it is very likely that Dewhurst will win at least 45 percent of the vote, it’s questionable that he will be able to win more than 50 percent in the face of sustained campaigns by Cruz, Leppert, Craig James, Glenn Addison and Lela Pittenger.

“In spite of the combination of Dewhurst ads attacking Cruz, and Leppert ads promoting his candidacy (while also attacking his three rivals), Cruz is still the odds-on favorite to finish second May 29. At this point in time, a July 31 runoff between Dewhurst and Cruz appears increasingly likely,” Jones said.

According to Jones, the Dewhurst camp clearly views Cruz as its principal threat, as evidenced by the waves of negative ads by Dewhurst and his allied super PACs attacking Cruz over the past month. Dewhurst’s main fear is that runoff turnout will be very low and that Cruz will be able to successfully frame the race as a contrast between an establishment conservative (Dewhurst) and a movement conservative (Cruz), with the latter position potentially appealing to a majority of the 500,000 to 750,000 voters who could be expected to participate in the runoff.

Jones, who is the chair of political science at Rice and a fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, is a leading expert on American and Texas politics and is often quoted in the national media. He has authored reports on the partisanship of Texas state senators and representatives, and he authored a guest column for the Texas Tribune titled “How Conservative is David Dewhurst?” that examined Dewhurst’s political affiliation and political career in Texas.

To speak with Jones, contact Amy Hodges, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at amy.hodges@rice.edu or 713-348-6777.

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About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.