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Tea Party cruises to wins in Texas Republican primary runoffs

By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas Republicans aligned with Tea Party darling Ted Cruz were projected to win primary runoffs on Tuesday for two of the state's most powerful posts, while U.S. Representative Ralph Hall, 91, was ousted by a challenger about half his age.

The Tea Party win over established politicians boosts the stature of U.S. Senator Cruz, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, and returns some luster to the Tea Party movement after several candidates were defeated by mainstream Republicans in primaries in other states last week.

The Dallas Morning News and other media outlets have projected that Dan Patrick, a state senator backed by Cruz, will win the Republican race for lieutenant governor over incumbent David Dewhurst.

Final results were likely to come out on Wednesday.

State Senator Ken Paxton, also aligned with Cruz, will defeat Dan Branch, a state representative since 2002, in the race for attorney general, according to media projections.

Hall, the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives, lost in a Republican primary runoff election to Tea Party-backed challenger, John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney.

Hall, a World War Two veteran, was first elected to the U.S. House in 1980 from congressional District 4, an area to the northeast of Dallas. He was seeking his 18th term.

The winners of all these races will emerge as the favorites in the general elections in November due to the dominance of Republicans over Democrats in conservative Texas.

The Tea Party movement, considered both conservative and libertarian, advocates for a smaller federal government and tax cuts.

The runoffs are for races where no single candidate crossed the 50 percent threshold in the March 4 primary.

In the race for governor in the state with a $1.4 trillion annual economy, current attorney general, Greg Abbott, easily won the March Republican primary and will face Democrat Wendy Davis, who also won in March.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait)

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