Trump-backed House candidate leads by only 7 votes in key Texas runoff

Trump-backed House candidate leads by only 7 votes in key Texas runoff
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A House candidate in Texas backed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE is leading an opponent backed by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Texas) by a mere seven votes in a runoff that will determine the Republican nominee in the race to replace retiring Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Texas Democrats plan 7-figure ad buy to turn state blue Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House MORE (R). 

As of Wednesday morning, Trump-backed Tony Gonzales had received 12,346 votes while Cruz-backed Raul Reyes had received 12,339, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.

There are still votes left to count, such as provisional ballots or mail-in ballots postmarked on Tuesday and received by Wednesday. Election officials will conduct a canvass of the vote over the next week before the results are finalized. Under Texas’s election laws, a candidate can request a recount if he or she trails by less than 10 percent of the winner’s vote share.

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Still, the ultra-close nature of the runoff in Texas's 23rd District underscores a rift among Republicans in a key race that Democrats see as one of their best pick-up opportunities of the 2020 election cycle. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, currently rates it as “Lean Democratic.”

Gonzales went into the runoff with the support of Hurd, along with House GOP leaders and Trump. But in a striking move, Cruz threw his support behind Reyes, arguing that he was the more reliably conservative candidate of the two.

The dueling endorsements pit two of the country’s most prominent Republicans against one another in a district that runs along a vast swath of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Trump recorded a robocall for Gonzales that went out to voters and participated in a teleconference with him on Monday in an effort to boost him ahead of the runoff. 

Meanwhile, Cruz, who had urged Trump to stay out of the runoff, took out a six-figure ad buy through his leadership PAC backing Reyes. In that ad, Cruz urges voters to choose a nominee “who won’t surrender our border, our sovereignty, our way of life.”

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Both Cruz and Trump hold enormous sway among Republicans in Texas. The president carried the state in the 2016 presidential election with 52 percent of the vote, while Cruz won reelection in 2018 with 51 percent of the vote.

Democrats already selected their nominee, Gina Ortiz Jones, in Texas’s initial March primaries. Jones, a repeat candidate, came within half-a-point of unseating Hurd in the 2018 midterm elections, and appears on the cusp of winning the district this year.

Tuesday’s runoffs yielded other wins for Trump. In Texas’s 13th District, Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician for Trump and former President Obama, defeated lobbyist Josh Winegarner for the Republican nomination. Jackson had been endorsed by the president.

And in Alabama, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville beat Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE, who was running to regain his old Senate seat. Sessions left the chamber in 2017 to become Trump’s first attorney general, but resigned in 2018 after his relationship with the president soured over his recusal in the investigation into Russia's election interference.

Trump repeatedly attacked Sessions throughout the race and strongly endorsed Tuberville.