Senate And Congressional Runoff Results Set The Stage For November Matchups

Some winners can expect an easy path to a seat in Congress, while others still face tough races.

By Jill Ament & Rhonda FanningJuly 15, 2020 7:01 am

Texas runoff elections for the U.S. Senate and for Congress, in both political parties, are now settled. Some candidates face tough races in November, while others, running in safe districts are likely on their way to Congress after victories on Tuesday.

Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with two Texas politics experts about the results. Renée Cross is senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. Bret Jaspers is a political reporter for KERA News in Dallas.

MJ Hegar will face Sen. John Cornyn in November after defeating state Sen. Royce West in a Democratic primary runoff. She was the favorite, but Cross said Hegar’s strength in Harris County, where West had been expected to do well, was a surprise, and was an important factor in Hegar’s victory. Hegar won Bexar, Harris and Travis Counties, while West won Dallas County.

Here are results from some of Tuesday’s most closely watched congressional runoffs:

– Former White House physician Ronny Jackson won the Republican runoff for the 13th Congressional district seat – a seat Congressman Mac Thornberry has held since 1995 and is now leaving. Jackson defeated lobbyist Josh Winegarner, who had support from Thornberry and from the cattle industry. Jackson ran with the backing of President Donald Trump. He is likely to win the seat in November. 

Pete Sessions, who lost his seat in Congress in 2018 and ran this year for a different seat in Waco, won his runoff election. Sessions defeated Renee Swann, who had been endorsed by Bill Flores – the congressman Swann and Sessions ran to replace. Sessions will likely win in November. Because of his previous stint in Congress, Sessions would start next year with significant seniority, Jaspers said. 

– In Congressional District 22, where Republican Pete Olson is retiring, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls defeated conservative activist Kathaleen Wall. Nehls won 73% of the vote, despite Wall’s spending $8 million on the race, Cross said. Wall ran for a different congressional seat in 2018, spending several million dollars then, only to finish third in the Republican primary. Nehls faces Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in November. Cross said Kulkarni came within 5 percentage points of defeating Olson in 2018. Cross said the district is considered an important battleground. 

–  Candace Valenzuela won the Democratic runoff in District 24, in North Texas. If she wins in November, Valenzuela would become the first Afro-Latina member of Congress, Jaspers said. She faces a tight race against Beth Van Duyne, a conservative former mayor of Irving.

Jaspers said early voting turnout across Texas was higher than it was in similar runoff contests in 2016 and 2018.

Web story by Shelly Brisbin.

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