AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry, tapping into voter disenchantment with Washington, forged a decisive victory over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Tuesday's Republican primary.
Perry now plunges into a contentious general-election battle against former Houston Mayor Bill White in his bid for an unprecedented third four-year term.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the state's longest-serving governor had 51 percent of the vote over his two Republican challengers, gaining the majority he had sought to avoid a runoff next month. Hutchison had 30 percent while Wharton businesswoman Debra Medina had almost 19 percent.
In a jubilant victory party at a barbecue restaurant in the small community of Driftwood near Austin, Perry repeated many of the anti-Washington themes that laced his campaign and vowed to lead a united Republican Party into the fall campaign.
Calling on Washington to "stop messing with Texas," Perry said his general-election campaign will stress "limited government, unlimited opportunities and good jobs for Texas."
"A lot of new people participated in this election," he said. "People are awake. They are energized. They are aware of the power they hold in their hands."
In Dallas, Hutchison conceded defeat in a congratulatory phone call to Perry and pledged her support.
"We have fought valiantly for our principles, but we did not win," Hutchison told disappointed supporters.
With her husband, Ray Hutchison, by her side, the state's senior senator called on Republicans to set aside their differences from the often-bitter primary fight to unite behind Perry.
White easily seized the Democratic nomination to challenge Perry in the Nov. 2 general election, drawing 77 percent of the vote against six rivals. Houston hair-care magnate Farouk Shami, White's most visible opponent, had 12 percent.
In his victory speech at a Houston hotel, White spelled out the themes of his unfolding campaign, declaring, "It's time we return accountability to Austin."
Accusing Perry of "dividing this state into red and blue," White said he would try to bring all Texans together on "common ground" to deal with pressing problems such as unemployment and state debt.
"Texans are going to come together," he said.
Perry, who will turn 60 Thursday, had consistently led in the polls, but it was unclear whether he would pass the majority threshold to seize an outright victory.
The outcome dealt a devastating blow to Hutchison, who launched her campaign to replace Perry in the Governor's Mansion more than a year ago.
Hutchison has said she will resign the Senate after the primary, but she offered no new details on her timetable Tuesday night.
Perry, appealing to staunchly conservative voters who form the base of the Republican primary, clearly benefited in persistently attacking the 17-year senator as a Washington insider out of touch with Texas.
Though she had strong support from prominent Republicans, including former President George H.W. Bush, Hutchison got off to a bumpy start in launching her campaign and was never able to overtake Perry.