DALLAS (AP) -- Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and tea party-supported lawyer Ted Cruz emerged from a field of nine Tuesday to send the Republican race to replace retiring Texas U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to a runoff.
The Senate race was the most-watched among hundreds of races in the Texas primary for the Republican presidential nomination, Congress, the Legislature, judges and various state boards.
Dewhurst, who counted Gov. Rick Perry among his backers, held a double-digit lead over the former Texas solicitor general but couldn't close the deal by collecting more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid another contest with Cruz on July 31.
The secretary of state's office said more than 13 million Texans were registered to vote, but several polling places indicated voters stayed away, perhaps due in part to sweltering heat, confusion about a primary date that had been rescheduled twice because of redistricting disputes and Memorial Day weekend travels that kept some folks away from home.
"We're all trying to find where the voters are," Ellen Rusch, whose husband was seeking nomination for re-election as a judge, lamented from a suburban Dallas polling place.
Many polling places reported seeing just dozens of people out of thousands registered to vote. At one Houston polling station, an official read an electronic book while another rolled the border of a sheet of name-tag stickers into a ball.
Anette Fay, 50, of Richardson, a German immigrant who looked forward to voting for president for the first time, was taken aback when she arrived to vote.
"I thought there would be lines," she said.
The presidential primary topped the Texas ticket, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clinched the GOP nomination with a cache of delegates collected in an overwhelming victory in Tuesday's balloting. According to the Associated Press count, Romney surpassed the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination by winning at least 88 delegates in the Texas primary. The 152 delegates in the state are awarded in proportion to the statewide vote, and another 64 delegates were still to be decided as results rolled in.
But the GOP U.S. Senate race drew the greatest attention in the weeks leading up to election day. In the Senate race, the strong showing by Cruz capped what's already a banner month for the tea party movement. Richard Mourdock ousted 36-year Senate veteran Richard Lugar in Indiana, and state Sen. Deb Fischer used strong tea party support to upset two better-known candidates in Nebraska.
Among others seeking the GOP senatorial nomination, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert conceded less than an hour after polls closed throughout the state and ex-NFL running back and ESPN announcer Craig James failed to get out of single-digit percentages.
Dewhurst has overseen the Texas Senate as lieutenant governor since 2003, but Cruz claimed Dewhurst was too moderate for sometimes showing a willingness to compromise with Democratic state senators to ensure the flow of legislation.
Cruz drew support from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and national limited-government groups including the Club For Growth -- support Dewhurst dismissed as outsiders meddling in state politics.
On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler, from Henderson in East Texas, topped a field of four and qualified for a runoff. His opponent wasn't immediately decided.
Texas' booming population meant it added four new seats in Congress, while new redistricting maps drawn by the Republican-dominated state Legislature -- and a subsequent legal fight over whether they fairly represented minority voters -- reshaped many existing districts.
Incumbents fared well despite some challenges. Longtime U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson dispensed with the first Democratic primary opponent in her two decades representing her Dallas-area district. And Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, torpedoed by Republicans in their redistricting plan, emerged from a field of three to take his party's nomination in the new 35th District, which runs from Austin to San Antonio.
Along the Gulf Coast, a runoff was likely in the Republican race to fill the House seat of Ron Paul, who chose not to run for re-election while focusing on his GOP presidential bid. The GOP winner from among nine candidates will face Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, who served four terms in the House but was defeated in 2004.
Also Tuesday, a campaign worker was shot in the leg in an apparent drive-by shooting at a South Texas polling place. The injuries were not life threatening, no suspects were identified and it wasn't immediately clear if the shooter was targeting a specific campaign or candidate, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said.
9:39p Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and tea-party backed former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz are heading to a runoff in the state's Republican primary for U.S. Senate. The race had been fierce, with brutal attacks from all sides. Candidates competed to see who could claim to be the true conservative. Dewhurst was short of the majority needed to earn the nomination outright. The two men will now face a runoff election on July 31 to advance to the November general election in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. - AP
9:34p Could Tom Leppert be the kingmaker in the Republican U.S. Senate race? He declined to endorse either Ted Cruz or David Dewhurst, who are apparently headed for a runoff. A recent Public Policy Polling survey shows that Leppert backers break 77-13 in favor of Dewhurst. - Brad Watson reporting from Houston
9:32p GOP U.S. Senate candidate Craig James has conceded defeat. He has less than 4 percent of the vote with 25 percent of precincts reporting. - WFAA
9:18p The trend is definitely pointing toward a runoff in the GOP U.S. Senate race. With 20 percent of precincts reporting, David Dewhurst's slice of the pie has slipped under 47 percent; Ted Cruz is moving toward 31 percent. - Brad Watson reporting from Houston
9:09p Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has declined to endorse either David Dewhurst or Ted Cruz for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, saying he's going to wait and see what happens next. Leppert also said he has no future career plans to announce at this time, and wouldn't say whether a return to city politics might be a possibility. - Jonathan Betz reporting from Dallas
8:59p With 13 percent of precincts checking in statewide, David Dewhurst has 47 percent of the GOP U.S. Senate primary vote; Ted Cruz trails with 30 percent. Tom Leppert, who has already conceded defeat, has 14 percent. - WFAA
8:50p Domingo Garcia, seeking the Democratic nomination to the U.S. House District 33 race, has arrived at campaign headquarters in Oak Cliff. With only early voting returns in so far, he's in position for a runoff with Marc Veasey. - Monika Diaz reporting from Dallas
8:46p Although Tom Leppert conceded defeat to reporters at his campaign headquarters, the former Dallas mayor has yet to address supporters following his disappointing showing in the GOP U.S. Senate race. He's been meeting one-on-one with key backers. - Jonathan Betz reporting from Dallas
8:36p Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who portrayed his rivals as "empty suits" in a TV campaign, concedes defeat in the GOP U.S. Senate race, saying "the numbers are pretty clear." - Jonathan Betz reporting
8:33p Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has arrived at his watch party for the GOP U.S. Senate seat. If early returns hold, Leppert will be out of the running for a runoff election.
8:32p There's a festive mood at the David Dewhurst watch party in Houston. TheRepublican U.S. Senate candidate is leading rivals, but the early vote return indicates that a runoff with rival Ted Cruz is likely. - Brad Watson reporting from Houston
8:29p Democrat Dr. David Alameel is expected to arrive at his U.S. House District 33 watch party around 8:30 p.m. With only early voting reported, he is in fouth place with 9 percent. - Marcus Moore reporting from Fort Worth
7:45p It looks like the Texas GOP Senate primary might go to a runoff based on early returns. - Jason Whitely reporting from Houston
7:40p With 72 of 8,779 precincts reporting, the Texas Secretary of State says David Dewhurst has 47 percent and challenger Ted Cruz has 28 percent of the vote in the Republican U..S. Senate primary. - Jason Whitely reporting from Houston
7:25p Ted Cruz is having a brief dinner of chicken wings at a Houston hotel as he awaits early returns in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. Those initial numbers are important, because if they show challenger David Dewhurst with 50 percent or more of the votes, it could indicate a difficult night ahead for Cruz partisans, who are hoping for a runoff... which they would consider a victory. - Jason Whitely reporting from Houston