05/29/2012 05:34 pm ET Updated May 29, 2012

Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst Test GOP Establishment In Texas Senate Race

The Republican Senate primary race to fill the seat left open by retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has been framed as Republican establishment versus Tea Party, but it may simply be a test of how conservative Texas Republicans have become.

Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has endorsements from prominent conservatives like Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee, while his opponent, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, has received nods from such national Tea Party figures as Sarah Palin and Jim Demint. A third candidate, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, while clearly the underdog, could garner enough votes to prevent Dewhurst from receiving the 50 percent necessary to win the Texas Republican party nomination outright on Tuesday. Should he fail, Dewhurst will be forced into a run-off election on July 31.

Most of the Republican races in Texas follow a similar dynamic, according to the Associated Press, with candidates competing to see who can get further to the right, particularly in legislative races. "More than 20 percent of the Texas House membership, 31 lawmakers in total, retired or quit to run for higher office this year, offering the opportunity for the Legislature to become ever more conservative," reported the Associated Press. "In only a few races are moderate Republicans trying to drive out freshman tea party incumbents after the Legislature cut $4 billion in spending on public education last year."

Polls show Dewhurst leading Cruz, but still short of the necessary 50 percent to avoid a run-off election, which is expected to make it tougher for him to win the primary. The race is one of the most expensive senate races of the election cycle thus far, with primary candidates spending in total some $25 million.

That's in part because the stakes are high: in heavily Republican Texas, whoever wins the Republican primary is virtually certain to win the general election. Salon has background on some of Cruz's more extreme positions.

10 more election stories from beyond the presidential field:

State Attorney Angela Corey Endorses LeMieux In Florida Senate Race [Orlando Sentinel]

Brad Schneider Tied With Robert Dold In Illinois [CapitolFax.com]

NRCC Hits Barber On Cap-And-Trade [The Hill]

Angus King Officially Enters Senate Race In Maine [State House Bureau]

GOP Registration Advantage In Giffords' District [AzCapitolTimes]

Texas Senate Race May Require A Run-off [Star-Telegram]

Decorated Broward War Hero Targeted In Gov. Scott’s Voter Purge [CBSMiami]

S.C. House Candidate Has Checkered Past [FitsNews]

Flake, Cardon Spar Over Campaign Finance Accusations [AzCapitolTimes]

Pizza Delivery Car, Hearse Collide At McCaskill Event [STLtoday]