Wikimedia Commons / Jay Godwin
MJ Hegar (right) speaks with audience members after a 2018 political forum.
Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar appears to have staved off a late push from State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and will face incumbent Sen. John Cornyn in November's senate election to represent Texas.
With just under one million votes counted late Tuesday night, Hegar, a decorated Air Force veteran who narrowly lost a U.S. House race in the Austin suburbs in 2018, led West by more than four percentage points.
The race for the Republican nomination for the 23rd District congressional seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd was even tighter than the Democratic Senate primary and late Tuesday night was still too close to call.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Air Force veteran Raul Reyes was leading former Navy cryptologist Tony Gonzalez by just more than 300 votes to represent the swing district that includes part of San Antonio and a wide swath of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The two contests were among Texas' highest-profile races during the July 14 primary runoff.
Hegar stopped short of declaring victory Tuesday night, but said that she was "feeling very confident about the results that we have seen so far."
West, for his part, didn't concede — pinning his hopes on outstanding votes from Dallas and Houston.
The veteran lawmaker squeaked into the runoff against Hegar by narrowly beating out Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, a progressive endorsed by U.S. Reps
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joaquin Castro, for second place in the primary.
Hegar entered the runoff as the favorite after winning the primary. With the extensive support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Washington-based organizations including EMILY's List, she vastly outraised West.
Hegar ultimately outspent Royce 102-1 on television and radio advertising, according to an NBC News analysis
Nevertheless, West seemed to gain momentum in June as protests against police violence broke out across the state. The longtime legislator highlighted Hegar's past support of Republican candidates and his own record of pursuing criminal justice reform.
West also had the support of Ramirez and a number of other candidates whom he and Hegar beat in March, as well as some of his legislative colleagues. However, that wasn't enough.
West again racked up a huge margin of victory in his home Dallas County and is narrowly leading in Harris County as well. However, he fared poorly in the Hill Country and the western half of the state.
Bexar County, which Ramirez won in March, went solidly for Hegar on Tuesday night, as did all of the surrounding counties.
Hegar, who's never before held elected office, has a difficult road ahead. Cornyn has led in every poll of a head-to-head contest between the two, with none of those polls showing the race within five points.
The race to fill the 23rd District seat left open by Hurd's retirement is being watched closely in Washington and may rank among the priciest contests in November.
Donald Trump endorsed Gonzalez, while Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, endorsed Reyes. The Trump campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter
to Reyes on Monday after the candidate sent out mailers depicting him standing next to the President.
The seat is also a top pickup target for Democrats, who renominated Gina Ortiz Jones in March. Jones lost the 2018 race to Hurd by half a percentage point, and her solid fundraising record in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 suggests either Republican candidate will face a tough November contest.
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