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Donald Trump’s former White House doctor Ronny Jackson wins U.S. House runoff in Panhandle; Pete Sessions makes a comeback
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
AUSTIN (CFP) — Former Air Force combat pilot MJ Hegar has won the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn for a seat that Democrats have hopes of flipping in November.
Hegar, who had the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, defeated State Senator Royce West of Dallas by a margin of 52% to 48% in Tuesday’s runoff and now faces the task of pulling off something no Democrat has done in 32 years — win a Senate race in the Lone Star State.
In a victory statement, Hegar vowed to run “a Texas-sized winning campaign that will take down Sen. Cornyn and deliver real results on health care, racial justice, economic opportunity, climate change, immigration and gun violence.”
The Cornyn campaign responded with a statement calling her “Hollywood Hegar,” because of her out-of-state support, and noting that she barely beat West even though she and her allies outspent him on advertising by a margin of 100 to 1.
“Senator Cornyn is prepared to face whatever comes his way,” his campaign said.
In other Texas runoff races, Ronny Jackson — the former White House doctor whom President Trump tried and failed to install as Veterans’ Affairs secretary in 2018 — won a Republican runoff for a U.S. House seat in the Panhandle, making him the favorite to win in November in the Republican leaning 13th District.
Jackson now faces the winner of the Democratic runoff, Gus Trujillo, who works for a Latino business group in Amarillo.
In the Waco-based 17th District, Pete Sessions, a former House Republican leader who lost his Dallas-area seat in 2018, made a comeback by winning a runoff in a new district. He will face Rick Kennedy, a software developer from Round Rock, in November; the Republican lean of this district will also make Sessions the favorite.
In other Texas U.S. House runoffs Tuesday:
In the 10th District (East Texas between Austin and Houston), Mike Siegel won the Democratic runoff for the right to face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul in a race that Democrats have targeted as a pickup opportunity.
In the 22nd District (Southern Houston suburbs), Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls won the Republican runoff and will face Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in a race that Democrats have also targeted. The winner will replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson.
In the 23rd District (West Texas between San Antonio and El Paso), the Republican runoff may be headed into overtime after Tony Gonzales ended election night with a scant seven vote lead over Raul Reyes in a race fill the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.
The runoff pitted U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who endorsed Reyes, against Trump, who endorsed Gonzales. In the closing days of the race, Trump’s campaign sent Reyes a cease-and-desist order over a mailer that implied he had the president’s endorsement.
The winner will face Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who nearly defeated Hurd in 2018 in the state’s most competitive House district.
In the 24th District (Metro Dallas-Ft. Worth), Candace Valenzuela, a school board member in Carrollton-Farmers Branch, won the Democratic nomination and will face the Republican nominee, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, in the race to succeed incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, which Democrats are also targeting.
In the 31st District (Northern Austin suburbs), Donna Imam, an Austin computer engineer, won the Democratic runoff to face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter, who is also on the Democrats’ target list.