Democrats have a battle on their hands in Houston.
Activist and journalist Laura Moser secured a spot in the party's primary runoff to take on Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson in the fall.
She came in second, behind attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who was leading the crowded Democratic field for Congressional District 7 with 30 percent of the vote late Tuesday. Moser trailed with 24 percent of the vote.
The runoff is likely to be a brutal fight that will viscerally divide west Houston – but also the national Democratic Party. The House Democratic campaign arm took the rare step of unloading a heap of opposition research against Moser in the middle of early voting in a bid to keep her out of the runoff. Democrats locally and nationally have expressed doubts about Moser's electability in a general election, worrying that she is too liberal to carry the swing district, among other concerns.
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This race is one of three races in the state where Democrats are are expected to target next fall with the goal of unseating GOP incumbents. In all three districts, Hillary Clinton drew more votes than Donald Trump in 2016.
Like the race in Houston, the other two races — in Dallas and southwest Texas — featured crowded primaries that are also headed to runoffs.
In the 32nd District in Dallas, former NFL football player Colin Allred, who was leading with about 40 percent of the vote, will face former Obama administration official Lillian Salerno in the May 22 runoff. The eventual nominee will face U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, a Dallas Republican, in the November general election.
In the 23rd District, retired Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones led late Tuesday night with more than 41 percent of the vote. She'll likely head into a runoff with Rick Treviño, a teacher from San Antonio. Treviño topped third-place finisher Judy Canales by 216 votes, though a recount could be possible in that race.
In a shock to many power players, former Department of Justice prosecutor Jay Hulings missed the runoff in in 23rd District race, despite drawing high-profile endorsements including former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.
The winner of the runoff will take on U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in the fall.
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