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In Texas Congressional Races, Incumbents Stay Safe

Despite some handwringing over primary challengers — and the unpredictability wrought by a presidential primary election’s high voter turnout — members of the Texas congressional delegation managed to hold on to their seats Tuesday.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Despite handwringing over the unpredictability of Donald Trump-fueled voter turnout — and a close call for one powerful GOP chairman — all members of the Texas congressional delegation managed to hold on to their seats Tuesday.  

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee who faced three primary challengers and spent heavily in the race, veered close to a potentially fatal runoff before finally climbing to about 53 percent of the vote in preliminary returns. 

The Houston Republican's most organized opponent — former state Rep. Steve Toth, who posted weak fundraising numbers but banked on anti-establishment sentiment to carry him to victory in the district with a strong Tea Party contingent — hit almost 40 percent of vote.

Though Brady eked out a victory, he does not emerge from the primary unscathed. With Tuesday night's margin and his role as a leader on Capitol Hill, he is likely to have a target on his back for years to come. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz could also play a role in complicating Brady's re-election campaign next cycle. Should Cruz not succeed in his run for the presidency and run for re-election in 2018, his coattails might benefit a Brady challenger from the right. 

In another closely watched race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green, maintained a comfortable lead over former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. 

Garcia, who ran unsuccessfully for Houston mayor last year, had called on voters in the district to finally send a Hispanic to the U.S. House, arguing that he was the best candidate to counter Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's rhetoric as he launched his campaign.

Many political observers have thought Green was on borrowed time as an Anglo representing the heavily Hispanic Texas 29th Congressional District. But if the numbers hold through the night, it's hard to see how anyone challenges him in a primary again. Garcia failed to raise enough to compete with Green’s formidable campaign war chest, even as he zeroed in on the incumbent’s environmental and gun rights records.

In what will likely be the only competitive general election congressional race in Texas, Republican Will Hurd of San Antonio and Democrat Pete Gallego of Alpine are headed to a November rematch after easily defeating primary opponents. Hurd, who currently represents the district that stretches across the western part of the state from San Antonio to El Paso, ousted Gallego in 2014.

GOP incumbents in other contested primaries — John Culberson of Houston, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Bill Flores of Bryan, Sam Johnson of Richardson, Joe Barton of Ennis, Michael Burgess of Lewisville, John Ratcliffe of Heath,  John Culberson of Houston, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi and Pete Sessions of Dallas — also cruised to victory.

A crowded field of candidates for the congressional seats left open by two retiring lawmakers, Democrat Rubén Hinojosa of Edinburg and Republican Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock, means that May runoffs will determine the nominees. 

In the race to replace Neugebauer, the top three GOP finishers fought a tight battle for the district Republicans should safely hold in the fall. Late Tuesday night, Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson and former Texas Tech Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington were headed for a runoff, with retired Air Force Col. Michael Bob Starr trailing in third place. 

The six-candidate Democratic contest for Hinojosa's former seat will likely determine who represents the district. In that race, Vincente Gonzalez, an attorney who poured at least $750,000 of his own money into the race, won a clear first place finish with a preliminary 43 percent of the vote. Edinburg School Board Member Juan “Sonny” Palacios Jr. claimed second place to force a runoff. Dolly Elizondo, a former Hidalgo County Democratic chairwoman with the backing of EMILY's List, was a close third.

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