Battleground 2020Elections 20202020 Runoff Elections: Federal Races to Watch

Here's a list of the federal races to watch as Texas' runoff elections will come to a close today.
and July 14, 2020

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As the Texas runoff elections are in full swing, here’s a list of races to keep an eye on as the results roll in tonight.

Senate — M.J. Hegar vs. Royce West

The race at the top of Democratic ballots statewide will determine the nominee to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

M.J. Hegar, a retired Air Force combat pilot who ran a close race against Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31) in 2018, led the crowded primary contest with 22 percent of the vote.

Out of the field of candidates that many voters were unfamiliar with, state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) managed to secure a spot in the runoff with 15 percent of the vote.

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The bulk of West’s support came from the Dallas area, while Hegar’s support was larger statewide and particularly in the Austin area.

Given the local ties to each candidate, the voters in the Houston area may be a key determining factor to the outcome of the election.

Several primary candidates from that area — notably Amanda Edwards and Chris Bell — endorsed West shortly after the runoff, which may be a boon to his campaign efforts.

However, Hegar has vastly outraised West.

In the pre-runoff filing, Hegar raised the most of Texas federal candidates with $1.6 million.

West raised about a quarter as much at $430,000.

Whoever is nominated by the Democrats will still have an uphill battle to fight, since Cornyn easily outraised Hegar and West combined in the latest quarter.

10th Congressional — Mike Siegel vs. Pritesh Gandhi

The Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee included Texas’ 10th Congressional District in its 2020 target list after incumbent Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) won reelection two years ago by four points, fending off Democratic challenger Mike Siegel.

Siegel is back for more but first must defeat primary care doctor, Pritesh Gandhi. The former has raised $860,000 while the latter has eclipsed $1.2 million.

Gandhi boasts the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Austin American-Statesman while Siegel has secured support from the AFL-CIO and former presidential candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The district is rated as “Lean Republican” by both Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball and had been comfortably Republican for years until 2018. 

13th Congressional — Josh Winegarner vs. Ronny Jackson

Texas’ 13th Congressional District is ranked as the most Republican in the country by the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

Given its strong partisan leaning, the winner of the GOP runoff in this district is expected to win the general election without much difficulty.

Competition between the two runoff candidates has grown notably heated.

Josh Winegarner, who works with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, an agricultural lobbying group, secured the endorsement from retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13) and led the primary with 39 percent of the vote.

But just before the primary election, President Donald Trump encouraged voters in the district to cast their ballots for someone else: Ronny Jackson.

Prior to his run for the seat, Jackson worked as a White House physician for the past three administrations and was briefly considered to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but he withdrew that nomination after criticism from Senate Democrats.

At the end of the primary, Jackson had received 20 percent of the vote.

Since then, Jackson has received a full endorsement from Trump as well as support from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth PAC, which along with several members of the House Freedom Caucus had endorsed the third-placed primary candidate, Chris Ekstrom.

The two candidates have sparred in several debates, clashing over allegations of corruption and their respective endorsements.

17th Congressional — Pete Sessions vs. Renee Swann

The replacement for retiring Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX-17) will be either a former congressional colleague of his in Pete Sessions or his chosen candidate in Renee Swann. 

Sessions, the former congressman in Texas’ 32nd District who lost reelection in 2018, moved south to run for the district in which he was born. He finished a rather comfortable first in the crowded GOP primary.

His opponent, Renee Swann, is a former healthcare executive who runs an eye clinic with her husband in Waco. Flores endorsed Swann out of a handful of candidates in February. 

The pair has been locked in a contentious back and forth of accusations ranging from corruption to unpreparedness. Most recently, Sessions has criticized Swann for taking a Paycheck Protection Program loan for her business and then loaning her campaign a similar amount. 

Swann, meanwhile, has hit Sessions for spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees since launching his campaign.

Whoever wins on Tuesday will have an easy path through the general and into elected office come January.

Swann has outraised Sessions by a rather narrow margin: $1,000,000 to his $800,000.

22nd Congressional — Troy Nehls vs. Kathleen Wahl

In the race to replace retiring Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX-22), Democrats see an opportunity to win another Texas seat with their nominee, Sri Preston Kulkarni, who previously ran against Olson and lost by five percentage points.

For their nominee, Republicans have a choice between Troy Nehls and Kathaleen Wall.

Nehls, the Fort Bend County Sheriff, is relying on his local popularity and name recognition, which helped him receive 40 percent of the vote in March with a plethora of other candidates on the ballot, including Pierce Bush, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush.

Wall does not share the local popularity, but is tremendously well self-funded.

In 2018, she ran in the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, also in the Houston area. Wall spent over $6 million in the race but lost in the primary to Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02).

She received 20 percent of the vote in this year’s primary, having poured in $3.3 million in the preceding filing periods.

Since then, Wall has funded her own campaign with over $4 million more, spending massive amounts on television and direct mail advertisements.

Wall’s campaign strategy has emphasized negative attacks on Nehls, highlighting allegations that the sheriff did little to combat human trafficking in the county.

The pre-runoff financial disclosures show the clear difference between the strategies each candidate is taking: Wall reported $1 million cash on hand and Nehls reported $33,000.

23rd Congressional — Tony Gonzales vs. Raul Reyes

Democratic candidate Gina Ortiz Jones sailed through the primary and now has her eyes fixed on finishing what she nearly accomplished two years ago: flipping the Texas 23rd Congressional District (TX-23) from red to blue. In 2018, she narrowly lost to incumbent Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX-23).

But this time, Hurd is not running and Jones will face either Tony Gonzales or Raul Reyes. Gonzales has outraised Reyes three times over and won the primary by 2,000 votes. But that was not enough to avoid a runoff.

Both tout their conservative beliefs, but Reyes has fashioned himself as the grassroots candidate while Gonzales has received more traditional GOP support. 

Reyes has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the litany of TX-23 county sheriffs, and Texas Right to Life.

Gonzales, meanwhile, touts the endorsement of President Donald Trump, Hurd, and Land Commissioner George P. Bush. 

Trump and Cruz each contributed last-minute campaign support to their candidates — a robocall for Gonzales from the former and a tele-townhall for Reyes from the latter. 

Reyes has been criticized for touting support he does not have, specifically for a mailer on which he appears next to an image of the president. The Trump campaign sent Reyes a “cease and desist” letter accusing him of misleading voters as to whom the president supports.

The winner will face a difficult general against a well-prepared and well-funded Jones who already has substantial name-ID. Both Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the district as “Lean Democratic.”

24th Congressional — Kim Olson vs. Candace Valenzuela

Arguably the most contested Democratic runoff is in Texas’ 24th Congressional District, another seat that Democrats are hoping to win from Republicans with the retirement of Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24).

Kim Olson, a retired Air Force Colonel who previously ran for agriculture commissioner, led the primary race with 41 percent.

Candace Valenzuela, a local school board member, trailed in second with 30 percent of the vote.

In their own campaign funding, the two candidates have raised similar figures — with Olson outraising Valenzuela by $7,000 in the pre-runoff filing, and Valenzuela reportedly outraising Olson by $27,000 during the remainder of the July quarter.

But there has also been substantial outside spending in the race, with progressive groups such as the Voter Protection Project, End Citizens United, and the Latino Victory Fund backing Valenzuela, while Vote Vets has lent its support to Olson.

Valenzuela and those lending outside support have sharply criticized Olson, but Olson’s campaign has largely avoided returning with attacks of their own.

The winner of the Democratic primary will go toe-to-toe with former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne in the November election.

31st Congressional — Christy Eady Mann vs. Donna Imam

With 2018 challenger M.J. Hegar running for Senate, incumbent Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31) will face either Christy Eady Mann or Donna Imam.

Mann and Imam finished a distant first and second from the rest of the field in the primary and were fewer than 3,000 votes apart. Both intend to capitalize on the narrow 2018 results, hoping to unseat a longtime incumbent in Carter. 

Both Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the district as “Lean Republican,” but Hegar lost by a narrow 8,300-vote margin two years ago. 

Mann is a doctor and received support from state Reps. John Bucy (D-Austin) and James Talarico (D-Round Rock) and the Austin American-Statesman.

Imam’s biggest endorsement is from former Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, as well as the Texas AFL-CIO and a slew of other labor organizations. 

Both candidates tout their progressive credentials and have raised a fraction of Carter’s campaign — $350,000 and $430,000 for Mann and Iman, respectively.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.