DALLAS (Reuters) - Conservative incumbent Rick Perry rode strong anti-Washington rhetoric to a victory over a sitting U.S. senator for the Texas Republican gubernatorial nomination in a race that could be a model in this year's crucial U.S. mid-term congressional elections.
"We're taking our country back -- one vote at a time, one election at a time," Texas Governor Perry told supporters after handily defeating U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in a bruising primary election on Tuesday.
"This election was about hard-working Texans sending a simple, compelling message to Washington: quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses," Perry added.
His primary win showed that an anti-Washington message can resonate in the unsettled U.S. political atmosphere. Many Republicans hope to tap into this sentiment in their bid to wrest control of Congress from President Barack Obama's Democrats in November's congressional elections.
Perry will face former Houston Mayor Bill White in the November general election. White beat Houston businessman Farouk Shami in the Democratic primary.
After trailing Hutchison in initial polls in 2009, Perry surged to a commanding lead by mobilizing his party's most conservative members and harnessing disenchantment with Obama and Washington politics.
"I think the message is pretty clear -- conservatism has never been stronger than it is today," Perry said on Tuesday night in Driftwood.
Perry is especially popular with social and religious conservatives, who comprise a key base for the Republican Party nationwide but especially in the red-meat state of Texas.
"Perry thrashed Hutchison, suggesting that social conservatism, traditionally about two-thirds of the Republican primary vote in Texas, remains ascendant," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
After conceding the race, Hutchison, a U.S. senator since 1993, urged her supporters to unite behind Perry's candidacy. Perry's portrayal of her as a Washington insider largely stuck, analysts said.
(Writing by Will Dunham, editing by Vicki Allen)