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Texas Republicans fighting off Democrats in battleground congressional races

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By Abby Livingston and Kelsey Carolan, The Texas Tribune Nov. 4, 2020

Texas Republicans fighting off Democrats in battleground congressional races” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Texas Republicans largely held off Democrats’ ambitious goal of taking several U.S. House seats from the GOP as election results came in late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The Texas congressional delegation was at status quo — with several key races still too close to call — as no incumbent had yet lost their race by 1 a.m. and no seats had flipped parties.

Seven Republican incumbents whom Democrats targeted cruised to reelection, according to races called by Decision Desk HQ. U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin beat former state Sen. Wendy Davis in the 21st Congressional District, which includes parts of Austin, San Antonio and the Hill Country. U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, defeated Democrat Sima Ladjevardian in the Houston-based 2nd Congressional District. Crenshaw is a rising star within Texas Republican politics.

“Thank you TX-2!!!” Crenshaw tweeted. “It’s been an honor to represent you and an honor to continue representing you.”

Similarly, U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, also held off a challenge from Democrat Lulu Seikaly in Collin County’s 3rd Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Roger Williams of Austin fended off Democrat Julie Oliver to retain his 25th Congressional District, which includes Austin and a large swath of rural Central Texas. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin beat Democratic challenger Mike Siegel for the 10th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. John Carter beat Donna Imam to keep his 31st Congressional District north of Austin. U.S. Rep. Ron Wright of Arlington fought off Democratic challenger Stephen Daniel.

A big surprise of the night came from South Texas: U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a McAllen Democrat, held a narrow lead over Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, per Decision Desk HQ. That race was never on the radar as competitive.

In the 22nd Congressional District, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls beat Democratic former diplomat Sri Kulkarni for a seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, according to Decision Desk HQ.

“WE WON! Thank all y’all. This was truly a great win,” Nehls tweeted. “I look forward to representing our district in Congress and keeping my promise to be OUR voice.”

Two Republican candidates declared victory, even as their races remained outstanding, and Democrats pushed back against such action.

In the perennial battleground 23rd Congressional District, which runs along the Texas-Mexico border and is also open due to a Republican retirement, GOP candidate Tony Gonzales and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones were in a tight race that was too close to call, according to Decision Desk HQ data. Gonzales declared victory on his Facebook page, stating, “We put together a winning team.”

Jones conceded in a Wednesday morning statement: “While we came up short, I will always remain dedicated to serving our country and my community in any way I can.”

And in the 24th Congressional District, a largely suburban North Texas seat, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne led over former Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board member Candace Valenzuela, according to Decision Desk HQ data. Van Duyne declared victory, saying she was “honored the voters of North Texas have put their trust in me.” But Valenzuela did not concede the race, and her campaign manager, Geoffrey Simpson, called Van Duyne’s move “premature and irresponsible.” As of early Wednesday morning, Decision Desk HQ had not yet called the race.

Those GOP leads and wins came near the end of an election cycle in which Texas was the centerpiece of the U.S. House Democratic offensive. Buoyed by narrowed congressional margins in Republican districts in most of the metropolitan areas, the House Democratic campaign arm opened a satellite office in Austin to continue its advances. As a result, both parties spent tens of millions of dollars in the state, and Texans faced an onslaught of political advertising this fall.

Two Democrats who flipped Republican districts in 2018 held on to their seats. U.S. Reps. Colin Allred of Dallas and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Houston won their races, according to Decision Desk HQ.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, a Republican who lost reelection in 2018 to Allred, will return to Congress. Decision Desk HQ called the race for Sessions, who relocated to the open 17th Congressional District, which is rooted in Waco, Bryan-College Station and the rural areas in between.

Three new members-elect in safe Republican seats also won their races, according to Decision Desk HQ. In the 4th Congressional District that covers the northeastern part of the state, State Sen. Pat Fallon will replace John Ratcliffe, who is now director of National Intelligence. Retired Air Force officer August Pfluger will replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway in the 11th Congressional District, which includes a large portion of West Texas. And former White House physician Ronny Jackson will replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry in the sprawling 13th Congressional District that covers the Panhandle and a large swath of the Texas-Oklahoma border.

                <p>This article originally appeared in <a href="http://www.texastribune.org/">The Texas Tribune</a> at <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/04/texas-congressional-districts-election-results-democrats-republicans/">https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/04/texas-congressional-districts-election-results-democrats-republicans/</a>.</p>
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