The biggest news from Texas's late-night House primary returns was Rep. Silvestre Reyes's defeat in the 16th District Democratic primary. But a slew of other important results setting up July runoffs also came through in the wee hours.
TX-14: State Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland Councilmember Felicia Harris advanced to the July 31 Republican runoff in retiring Rep. Ron Paul's Gulf Coast seat. Weber paced the field with 28 percent, while Harris finished well ahead of the seven other candidates with 19 percent. The GOP candidates had difficulty stepping out of Paul's shadow over the course of the campaign, but Weber's combination of local electoral experience and a finanical advantage over most of the field helped boost him to first place.
The winner of the runoff will face former Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson in the general election. Democrats are hopeful that Lampson's Blue Dog record can make the 14th District competitive, though Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., carried the seat with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 (two points higher than his statewide average). Lampson, who won the Democratic primary with 83 percent of the vote, will now have some time to stockpile needed cash for the general election.
TX-23: On the strength of later returns from the western part of the district, state Rep. Pete Gallego held former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez to a runoff in the Democratic primary. Rodriguez won 57 percent of the vote in San Antonio's Bexar County, but it wasn't enough: He finished with 46 percent of the primary vote to Gallego's 40 percent.
Gallego is favored by national Democrats and got $200,000 worth of help from the League of Conservation Voters, which hit Rodriguez via mail and television for voting against the Democratic cap and trade bill in 2009. Rodriguez is very well-known in the district from previous stints in Congress, but LCV's polling convinced the group that he was vulnerable to an environmental ad campaign. "The polling bears out that Ciro is a de facto incumbent," said LCV's senior VP for campaigns, Navin Nayak. "But his support was broad but not necessarily deep, so we wanted to educate people about his record."
LCV now has another two months to make that case, and Gallego can continue to press home his financial advantage over the same time -- Rodriguez has not fundraised well at all and got outspent almost 3-to-1 by the pre-primary reporting period. The winner of the Democratic runoff will face freshman GOP Rep. Quico Canseco, who defeated Rodriguez in 2010, in November.
TX-25: Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams and tea party activist Wes Riddle advanced to a GOP primary runoff in the new district stretching from Austin north toward Ft. Worth. Williams spent big to finish first with 25 percent of the vote in a 12-person field, but Riddle came out of nowhere to claim a slim second-place finish at 15 percent.
Besides the top two finishers, the big story of the race is former state Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who completely failed to gain traction; he finished fifth, at 10 percent. Earlier this cycle, he had been touted as a potential conservative standard bearer in Texas's U.S. Senate primary, but he dropped out of that race and into the House late last year. Michael Williams even had support from a super PAC, which spent over $164,000 on his behalf, most of that on radio ads.
The new seat is heavily Republican; the runoff winner is all but assured a seat in Congress.
TX-36: Self-funding financial adviser Stephen Takach and ex-Rep. Steve Stockman advanced to the Republican runoff with 22 percent each in a new, strongly GOP-leaning district. State Sen. Mike Jackson, who was expected to advance further, finished just behind the top two with 20 percent.
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