AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry fought off two strong challengers in the March 2 Republican Party primary, positioning himself for an unprecedented third term as governor of Texas.
By drawing more than 50 percent of the vote, Perry avoided an April runoff with his closest challenger, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who received 30.3 percent. Newcomer Debra Medina of Wharton followed with 18.6 percent.
Combined voter turnout for the primaries was the highest since 1992, according to the Secretary of State’s office, with an estimated 2.1 million ballots cast.
In the Democratic primary, Houston Mayor Bill White took 76 percent of the vote to Houston businessman Farouk Shami’s nearly 13 percent, so it will be Perry versus White in the November general election.
Perry, already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, advanced from lieutenant governor to governor when George W. Bush left for the White House in January 2001. He was reelected in 2002 and 2006 and now looks forward to a record third full term, but White stands in his way.
Incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, running unopposed in the GOP primary, will face Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson in November.
Chavez-Thompson, a long-time labor activist, got 53 percent of the vote to former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s 34 percent. Coming in third was Austin delicatessen owner Marc Katz with 12 percent.
Other key matchups in statewide races will include:
Incumbent Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott versus Dallas Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston attorney who challenged Hutchison for her U.S. Senate seat in 2006.
Incumbent State Comptroller Susan Combs ran unopposed in the GOP primary and no one ran for the office of comptroller in the Democratic primary.
Incumbent Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a Republican, will face Democrat Hector Uribe, a former state representative and senator from Zapata County.
Incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, a Republican, will face Democrat Hank Gilbert. Gilbert shifted from his gubernatorial campaign to run as agriculture commissioner last fall when Bill White announced for governor. In the Democratic primary, Gilbert, an East Texas rancher, outdrew Hill Country humorist Richard S. “Kinky” Friedman, founder of Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch near Kerrville.
Incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor G. Carrillo lost to Midland accountant David Porter in the Republican primary. Porter will face Democrat Jeff Weems in November.
Six incumbent state representatives lost to challengers. For a complete listing of primary results, go to www.sos.state.tx.us.
Perry issues posthumous pardon
Gov. Perry on March 1 granted a posthumous pardon to Timothy Brian Cole, a Texan who died in state prison in 1999 while serving a 25-year sentence for a 1985 aggravated sexual assault he did not commit.
Perry said he pardoned Cole after receiving a unanimous recommendation to do so from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. More than a year earlier, a court ruled Cole was innocent after proof was confirmed through DNA testing.
Cole, who turned down an offer of parole in exchange for admitting guilt, maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. In 1995, five years before Cole’s death, another suspect confessed to the crime. Cole died in prison of an asthma attack on Dec. 2, 1999, having served nearly 15 years of the wrongful sentence.
Independence Day site debuts
A Web site created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Brenham-based Blinn College, www.txindependence.org, debuted on March 2, Texas Independence Day.
The site spotlights the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836 when 59 elected delegates met, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and created a new nation, The Republic of Texas.
DPS says stay away from border
The Texas Department of Public Safety on March 4 urged spring break travelers to avoid border cities in Mexico. DPS Director Steve McCraw said there is an increase in drug cartel-related violence in those cities, adding that parents should not allow their children to visit there because their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Unemployment figure repeats
On March 3, the Texas Workforce Commission reported the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in January, the same as in December 2009.