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March 3, 2020

Bernie and MJ Lead Packs in Super Tuesday Vote
as Several Texas Lawmakers May Be Runoff Bound

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Democrat Bernie Sanders seized a slim early lead over Joe Biden on Tuesday night in the presidential primary election in Texas where MJ Hegar was on track for overtime in the Democratic competition for the U.S. Senate with a second spot in a spring runoff still up in the air almost two hours after the polls closed here.

State Senator Royce West of Dallas and Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez of Austin were running neck an neck with about 12 percent of the vote in a field where Hegar had more than twice that amount in the battle for the Democratic nomination in the race for the job that Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is seeking again in 2020.

Texas primary voters were uncharateristically forgiving and friendly when it came to incumbents on both sides of the aisle with GOP State Rep. J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville as the only lawmaker here who appeared to be in danger of losing in round one. Stephenville Republican Shelby Slawson had a 20-point lead over Sheffield with about 51 percent of the vote in a Central Texas district where a third primary rival who'd had a seven-digit war chest was a distant third.

But two of the Legislature's longest-serving Democrats - State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville and State Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston - were sweating it out with the prospects for runoffs in primary fights with multiple foes in districts where they had about 49 percent and 51 percent of the vote respectively. A pair of San Antonio Democrats - Xochil Pena Rodriguez and State Rep. Roland Guiterrez - will be squaring off in overtime in May in a bid for a seat that Republican State Senator Pete Flores will fighting to keep as the general election underdog.

Republican State Rep. Dan Flynn of Van appeared to be at risk of being forced into OT as well in a district where he was hovering around 45 percent while perennial primary rival Bryan Slaton would be in line for a second runoff spot with 39 percent.

Lucio could end up facing Sara Stapleton-Barrera in a second round in a Rio Grande Valley district where she had corraled about 35 percent while State Board of Education member Ruben Cortez ran a distant third.

Several other Texas lawmakers including Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and GOP State Reps. Jared Patterson of Frisco and Briscoe Cain of Deer Park were crushing first-round opponents who'd looked like potential threats.

Cuellar was demolishing Jessica Cisneros with more than 80 percent of the vote despite the hype and support that she'd received from progressives around the country including Democratic presidential Elizabeth Warren.

Republicans Wesley Hunt of Houston and Beth Van Duyne of Irving appeared to be on track to win outright in primary fields with multiple foe in bids for Congress in target districts. But several other congressional contests that will be top targets this fall had overtime potential with Republicans Floyd McLendon of Dallas and Troy Nehls of Richmond and Democrats Sri Preston Kulkarni of Sugar Land leading crowded fields with less than 50 percent of the vote in their respective races.

San Antonio Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones crushed four primary foes in bid for the U.S. House in an open race that she'll be favored to win in the fall in a fight with the winner of a Republican that will put first-round leader Raul Reyes against Tony Gonzales.

Democrats Kim Olson of Addison and Candace Valenzuela of Dallas were headed for a runoff bout in an open congressional race in the Dallas area where the second round winner will square off with Van Duyne in November.

Hunt - one of three congressional hopefuls that President Donald Trump endorsed before the primary electioon - will be setting his sights this fall on Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Pannill Fletcher of Houston in a district that she flipped from red to blue in 2018. McLendon is vying for a shot in November at U.S. Rep. Colin Allred - a Dallas Democrat who ousted a longtime incumbent Republican in 2018.

Another U.S. House contender who had a thumbs up from the president - August Pfluger of San Angelo - appeared to have a chance to beat nine GOP primary foes in an open race in West Texas. Trump's former physician - Ronny Jackson of Henrietta - was running a distant second in another open battle for Congress in West Texas where Josh Winegarner of Canyon was the first round leader.

more to come ...

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