DALLAS -- Texas overwhelmingly elected Tea Party-backed Republican Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, completing the former state solicitor general's once seemingly impossible rise from virtual unknown to the first Hispanic to represent the Lone Star State in the Senate.The 41-year-old Houston attorney beat Democrat and former state Rep. Paul Sadler. With 33 percent of the vote counted, Cruz had 58.2 percent of the vote to Sadler's 39.4 percent, according to unofficial returns.Cruz, sensing victory, began telling supporters in Houston earlier in the day Tuesday that the "hard work" begins today, the day after the election when it's time to begin mapping out his action plan as Texas' newly elected junior senator.Late Tuesday, in a concession speech in Austin, Sadler said: "I'm proud to stand in front of you and say we have a new senator-elect, Ted Cruz. And I want us to be proud of the voters' choice."Cruz will replace Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Dallas, who is retiring. But even before Election Day, Cruz had already changed the nature of Texas politics by shocking one of the state's most formidable establishment figures, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.Cruz, who will become the third Hispanic senator in January, began the Republican primary polling at 2 percent. His father was born in Cuba and fought alongside Fidel Castro before his government embraced communism, then fled for Texas speaking no English and with $100 sewed into his underwear.Born in Canada while his parents were there working in the oil fields, Cruz grew up mostly in Houston and has a fiery, populist oratory style which he honed while becoming a debate champion at Princeton and earning his law degree from Harvard.Dewhurst, meanwhile, was the presumed next senator from Texas when the state Legislature adjourned in June 2011. Most observers considered Cruz -- who was appointed solicitor general from 2003 to 2008 by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and had never before sought political office or won an election -- an extreme fringe candidate vying only for recognition from the Tea Party wing of the GOP.Dewhurst had the support of the state's conservative establishment, including Gov. Rick Perry. He had overseen the state Senate since 2003, and he poured more than $20 million of his own personal fortune into his campaign.But Cruz started a two-year slog of a campaign that took him to dozens of candidate forums Dewhurst skipped. He spent hundreds of hours convincing grassroots Republicans that a vote for Dewhurst was a vote for moderation and that he himself was the true conservative in the race. Cruz supports building a fence the length of the U.S.-Mexico border and has called for eliminating a string of federal departments.Dewhurst didn't take Cruz seriously until he came in second in the Republican primary and forced a July runoff. But then it was too late, and Cruz won handily.His victory shook the Texas political establishment to its core and vaulted Cruz to national prominence. He snagged a prime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention and became a fixture on political talk shows from coast to coast.That made Tuesday's victory over Sadler almost anti-climactic -- but no less decisive.Voting at Walnut Hill elementary school in north Dallas, 61-year-old Jamie Parker said she didn't support Cruz during the primaries but has warmed to him."I'm pretty much anti-Democrat right now," said Parker, who with her husband has a business that sells computers to dentists.Sadler was also an unexpected candidate, stepping up after retired Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez dropped out.Yet Texas Democrats did not turn out for Sadler, giving him less than $1 million in a state where a statewide campaign typically costs more than six times that. Sadler didn't have enough money to flood television airwaves with commercials in most parts of the state, and he struggled to spread his message since Cruz agreed to attend only two debates -- one broadcast during Friday night high school football games.Sadler put on an old-school campaign, offering policies typical of moderate Southern Democrats. He had promised to support President Barack Obama's healthcare law, tax proposals and immigration policy -- three positions that Cruz roundly condemned.