Update (12:10 a.m.): The Democratic primary race for Congress between Beto O’Rourke and incumbent Silvestre Reyes is bragging late into the night (curse you, Mountain Time Zone). O’Rourke continues to lead—and there have been several unconfirmed reports that O’Rourke will pull it out tonight. But according to the Secretary of State site, O’Rourke, as of this writing, remains just a breath away from a runoff. With 74 percent of the precincts reporting, O’Rourke has 50.2 percent of the vote. Reyes trails with 44.4 percent. If Reyes loses tonight, you have to think the $200,000 in negative ads from Leo Linbeck’s Campaign for Primary Accountability had something to do with it. Reyes told me late last week that the Super PAC was the “Bane of my life.” And with that, good people, I’m calling it a night.
Update (11:40 p.m.): Looks like Ciro Rodriguez and Pete Gallego are headed for a runoff in the key Democratic congressional primary in San Antonio. Rodriguez, a former congressman who lost to Quico Canseco in 2010, has been ahead most of the night in CD 23. But in the last hour, he’s dropped below 50 percent and into runoff city. Rodriguez did well in his home base of San Antonio. But Gallego, a state rep from Alpine, made up ground as returns came in from West Texas. With 78 percent of the vote in, Rodriguez still led, but with just 48 percent. Gallego has 38 percent and John Bustamante had 12 percent. The winner of the likely runoff will face Canseco in the general election. That’s a big race nationally. Canseco pulled the upset in 2010 and is vulnerable. It would immensely help the Democrats’ efforts to retain control of the U.S. House if Rodriguez or Gallego can topple Canseco.
Update (11:28 p.m.): So Ted Cruz dragged Dewhurst into a runoff for the U.S. Senate seat, and feeling emboldened, broke out the serious smack talk. He splashed the word “Showdown” across the front of his website and challenged Dewhurst to five debates between now and the July 31 runoff. That’s a lot of bravado from a newbie who’s never won a single election. The conventional wisdom is that Dewhurst is in trouble in a runoff, and you have to think Cruz has a good shot. But, stiil, Dewhurst won 48 percent of the vote tonight. Cruz has a big deficit to make up. The big questions will be which candidate wins the support of the people who voted for Tom Leppert, who won 14 percent, and how different will the electorate look in a Texas runoff in July.
Update (10:36 p.m.): Ralph Hall has been in Congress nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I was 3 years old when the now-89-year-old first went to D.C. from northeast Texas. He was a conservative Democrat back then. Now he’s a Republican. But little else has changed. He’s headed back to Congress for 17th term, easily winning his three-candidate GOP primary tonight. With 89 percent of the vote counted, Hall was crusing with nearly 60 percent. Hall easily survived attack ads from Leo Linbeck’s Super PAC that said he’d been in Congress too long.
Update (10:00 p.m.): In El Paso, Beto O’Rourke, a former city councilman, is leading Democratic incumbent Silvestre Reyes. The Secretary of State site shows O’Rourke leading 51 percent to 43 percent in early returns. O’Rourke is known for once endorsing legalization of Marijuana to reduce cartel violence. He also was a key supporter of El Paso’s push to provide health benefits to domestic partners of city workers, a major symbolic victory for gay rights. Reyes is famous for once confusing Shia and Sunni facitons in the middle east while being nominated to head the House Intelligence Committee (you just can’t make this stuff up). More recently, he was dogged by allegations of helping his family members land jobs with a federal contractor. A loss by Reyes would be another victory for Leo Linbeck’s anti-incumbent Super PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability. Reyes would be the fourth congressional incumbent the group helped defeat nationwide. While O’Rourke is ahead—and at least one El Paso media outlet was calling the race for him preematurely—this one still seems too close to call.
Update (9:40 p.m.): Some predictable results on the Democratic side. Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia are headed for a runoff from the 11-candidate field in the new Democratic congressional district in North Texas.
Update (9:17 p.m.): Lloyd Doggett continues to confound Republican attempts to toss him from office. The Austin congressman trounced Sylvia Romo tonight in the Democratic primary in his new redrawn district. With 20 percent of the precincts reporting, Doggett was cruising with more than 70 percent of the vote, a tremendous victory. The AP just called the race for him. The interim redistricting maphad placed Doggett in a majority-Latino district that ran to San Antonio, but it didn’t matter. Of the five Anglo Democrats that Tom DeLay tried to unseat back in 2004, Doggett is the lone survivor.
Update (7:36 p.m.): Well, scratch Eddie Bernice Johnson’s name off the list of congressional races to watch. The polls have been closed less than 40 minutes, but the Associated Press and Texas Tribune have called the race for Johnson, the 10-term (soon-to-be 11-term) Dallas incumbent. In early returns, she captured 70 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff despite facing two challengers. Republican Joe Barton may not be far behind. The man they call “Smokey Joe” for his support of industry has 66 percent of the vote in early returns. More updates to follow.
Posted earlier: The makeup of Texas’ congressional delegation will be largely decided tonight.
Thanks to gerrymandering and Republican dominance, the general election in November won’t provide that much suspense. Whoever wins the four-candidate race for the GOP nomination will be heavily favored to win Texas’ open U.S. Senate seat in the fall. Most of the U.S. House races are safe seats for one party or the other (with one major exception, which I get to in a moment).
So tonight’s the night to determine, for the most part, who Texas sends to Washington.
I’ll be liveblogging the results of Texas’ Senate race and key U.S. House primaries. The big question in the Senate race tonight is whether Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the presumptive favorite, can avoid a runoff. It’s looked for months like Dewhurst would win the nomination outright. But recent polls show Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite and former solicitor general (read the Observer profile of Cruz here), gaining on Dewhurst. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and ESPN football commentator Craig James are also running. If Dewhurst fails to capture 50 percent of the vote tonight and lands in a July runoff with Cruz, the lite gov may be in trouble. Cruz has boldly predicted that he’d win a runoff.
Many observer believe Texas will have only one competitive U.S. House race this fall—the San Antonio seat held by Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco, who won this Democratic-leaning district in a 2010 upset. That makes tonight’s Democratic primary an important race to watch. Long-time Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine and former congressman Ciro Rodriguez, who lost to Canseco in 2010, are squaring off to see who will challenge Canseco in the fall.
I’ll also be closely watching incumbents Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) and Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall). Both are long-time congressmen—the 89-year-old Hall is the oldest man in Congress—who have credible challengers. And both are targets of the Leo Linbeck III-backed Super PAC called Committee for Primary Accountability. The group has embarked on a well-publicized and well-funded nationwide crusade against congressional incumbents. (Read our story on the Linbeck Super PAC, and the Hall and Reyes races here.)
Finally, there’s a smattering of other interesting congressional races across the state, including (but not limited to):
—Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s attempt to fend off a challenge from Bexar County Tax Assessor Sylvia Romo;
—The 11-candidate race for the newly drawn Democratic seat in Dallas-Fort Worth, headlined by state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia.
—The plight of two long-time, yet controversial members of Congress from North Texas—Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson and Republican Joe Barton—who both face multiple challengers.
Check back for updates throughout the evening.