HOUSTON - U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady and his supporters experienced a great relief Tuesday night as election results came in, showing him as the winner.

Brady has represented Texas’ eighth congressional district for 18 years and is now chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, one of the most powerful positions in Congress.  He is a solid conservative representing one of the most conservative districts in the nation, yet he faced three challengers, one of whom was backed by the Tea Party.

Julie Turner is the president of a Tea Party-related group called the Texas Patriots PAC that attacked Brady.

“He is really not representing our values,” she said, “he is really just focused on the chairmanship position. What would be fantastic would be if he could vote our values and be chair, but we do not have that.”

But many conservatives rejected what they viewed as the Tea Party’s extremism, including Brady supporter Terri Jaggers: “Unfortunately, some people are so bullheaded and dogmatic in their principles of conservatism that they are unrealistic in being able to get things done.”

A Tea Party rally in Kentucky.
FILE - A Tea Party rally in Kentucky. Many conservatives have rejected what they viewed as the Tea Party’s extremism.

Focus on party unity in tumultuous election uear

In a VOA interview, Brady said he understands voter frustration and wants to keep conservatives united going forward.

“It has been an unpredictable election year,” he said, “with unpredictable results and people are angry for a number of different reasons. People don’t see Congress acting on these key issues.” 

But the challenge to Brady reveals deep divisions in the Republican party, according to Rice University political analyst Mark Jones.

He said, “Kevin Brady survived, but he only won 53 percent of the vote despite outspending his rivals by a factor of more than ten to one.”

Jones said Tea Party conservatives do not care that Brady has a powerful position in Congress and can get a lot from Washington for his district and Texas in general. In fact, he says, they see such dealings as the reason the U.S. budget deficit is so huge.

One Tea Party member in the eighth district said of Brady, “We don’t want a chair, we want a representative.”

But Jones says both the Republican establishment and the Tea Party movement face a bigger threat than ideological fidelity this year.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trum
FILE - Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, with former rival candidate Governor Chris Christie, left, at his side, speaks at a news conference in Palm Beach, Fla., March 1, 2016.

Republicans and Trump

Many Republican voters, like Tanya Cotten, back Donald Trump.

“He is honest and he says what he means,” she said, “he is tough and he is going to make this country better.”

Over the years, Trump has supported both liberal and conservative causes, while developing a reputation for wheeling and dealing in his real estate development business.

Julie Turner worries that he may make deals that compromise people’s rights: “You just do not know with Donald Trump what is not negotiable and our rights in the Constitution are not negotiable.”

Turner, who backs Texas Senator Ted Cruz, thinks Trump opponents could try to stop him at the GOP convention in July.

She said, “That is the topic of a huge amount of conversation. I think (at) the Republican convention, there is a possibility it could get quite crazy.”

But Mark Jones says whether Republicans block Trump at the convention or nominate him, they could face disaster.

“They either support a Donald Trump candidacy in November or they support someone else,” he said, “but, in doing so, lose the support of Trump backers in November and really they are two different flavors of poison.”

Trump supporters, however, including some party stalwarts like former rival Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, say he will invigorate the party and win the White House in November.