Cruz received more support than any other major party candidate in a contested Texas U.S. Senate primary

As Democrats brace to hold multiple vulnerable seats in an attempt to maintain their fragile majority in the U.S. Senate, they eye Ted Cruz’s seat in the state of Texas as one of the few conceivable 2024 pick-up opportunities for the party.

For nearly a decade, Texas has made the list of possible Democratic wins in various statewide elections, but the party always comes up short – losing 166 partisan statewide contests in a row dating back to 1996.

While Senator Cruz only narrowly defeated U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke by 2.6 points en route to his second term in 2018, he did acquit himself as well as possible in last week’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Cruz won 88.3 percent of the vote in the three-candidate field – which now stands as the largest support received by a Democratic or Republican Texas U.S. Senate candidate in a contested primary election.

Prior to this cycle, the most support a GOP U.S. Senate candidate had amassed on Primary Day was the 87.6 percent won by U.S. Representative George H.W. Bush in 1970 in a head-to-head matchup against former New York City municipal judge and University of Dallas founder Robert Morris.

Republican nominees eclipsed the 80 percent mark four other times: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 1994 (84.3 percent), Senator Phil Gramm in 1996 (85.0 percent), Senator John Cornyn in 2008 (81.5 percent), and Cruz in 2018 (85.3 percent).

GOP nominees have won their U.S. Senate primaries without opposition eight times: El Paso attorney U.S. Goen in 1934, Brownsville attorney Carlos Watson in 1954, Senator John Tower in 1966, 1972, and 1978, Gramm in 1990, and Hutchison in 2000 and 2006.

[It should be noted Texas Republicans held primaries in only four cycles prior to 1964. U.S. Senate nominees were chosen via party conventions in the remainder].

On the historically much more competitive Democratic side, candidates have won more than 80 percent of the vote just twice across 36 contested U.S. Senate primary ballots.

Senator Tom Connally won 84.8 percent in 1940’s three-candidate field and Senator Lloyd Bentsen won 84.8 percent in a 1988 head-to-head matchup against perennial candidate and San Antonio minister Joe Sullivan.

An average of 3.8 Democratic candidates have appeared on Texas U.S. Senate primary ballots over the decades compared to 3.3 candidates on the Republican side.

Follow Smart Politics on X/Twitter.


  1. Connor Cobb on March 14, 2024 at 10:07 pm

    Ken Buck resigns, giving CO there 1st us house special election since 1983 if I’m not mistaken, ending 1 of the longer droughts in that category.

    • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on March 15, 2024 at 1:21 pm

      Indeed – only Idaho (never), Delaware (1900), New Hampshire (1932), Maine (1951), Iowa (1959), North Dakota (1963), and Vermont (1972) have current longer U.S. House special droughts. (As Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Rhode Island ended longer droughts in recent years).

  2. Catherine Morris on March 14, 2024 at 11:23 pm

    What are the facts concerning gerrymandering in Texas to favor GOP candidates and to what extent do these tactics allow Cruz to keep winning? DeSantis and Florida legislature have made it much more difficult for blacks and democrats to win. Almost half of voters are democats but the 20/8 districting leaves them with no representation. Are judges at the state level scewed to the far right and not protecting voter’s rights? What protections are there for citizens to assure their vote counts?

Leave a Comment