Rep. Duncan Hunter wins Texas Republican straw poll

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - Republican presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter scored a symbolic victory on Saturday, winning a low-turnout Texas straw poll that drew only a few second-tier candidates in the White House race.

Hunter, a California congressman, whose big issues are border security and strong national defense, took about 41 percent of the 1,300 votes cast.

Former Tennessee senator and actor Fred Thompson, who will formally launch his White House run next week, came second with about 20 percent of the vote. Texas Congressman Ron Paul was third with just under 17 percent of the vote.

The results are nonbinding but the Republican Party of Texas billed the event as a chance to gauge the mood of activists in one of the most conservative U.S. states.

Hunter is one of the political architects of plans for a controversial security wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“Texas is destined for 400 miles of border wall under the law that I wrote ... so my commitment to the American people, as president, is that I will complete the border fence in six months,” he told Reuters as delegates were voting.

The poll drew none of the top Republican candidates.

Tina Benkiser, who chairs the state Republican Party, said big-name candidates, like Thompson and Republican front-runner Rudy Guiliani, had fueled resentment that they were using Texas as a “giant ATM machine” to raise funds without appearing in the state.

“They’re missing out on a great opportunity to really talk to the grass roots. Not only do we fund a lot of campaigns across the country out of Texas but more importantly we put shoe leather out there,” she said.