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Texas 2020 Elections

Longtime Democratic state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. fends off primary challenge from his left

Lucio’s race against Sara Stapleton-Barrera was among the most competitive of the primary elections for the Texas Senate, where Republicans are expected to keep their majority after the general election.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, spoke during during a Senate State Affairs committee hearing on July 23, 2017.

Longtime state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. emerged Tuesday night as the Democratic nominee for State Senate District 27, fending off a challenge from the left that has highlighted the party’s ideological divisions.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Lucio led opponent Stapleton-Barrera 54%-46%. He will face Republican Vanessa Tijerina in the November general election, but is an overwhelming favorite to win in November.

In a tweet late Tuesday night, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, congratulated Lucio on his victory.

“Congratulations to my friend and a great state senator, Eddie Lucio, Jr., on his win tonight,” Patrick wrote. “A great victory for the people of his district and the entire #RGV. Will have more to say on this tomorrow.”

Lucio’s race was among the most competitive of the primary elections for the 31-member Texas Senate, where Republicans are expected to keep their majority after the general election.

Over the course of the primary runoff campaign, Stapleton-Barrera, an unabashed progressive, said Lucio’s voting record showed he was out of touch with the district’s younger and more progressive voters. Recent campaign finance reports show some of the biggest GOP donors in Texas pitched in last-minute to help Lucio’s reelection campaign.

Stapleton-Barrera also accused Lucio of being too cozy with the Senate’s Republican leadership. Lucio, a conservative Democrat, has long split with his party on issues like abortion, and has cast votes that were controversial within his party in recent years on private school choice and the 2017 “bathroom bill,” which would have restricted transgender Texans’ access to certain public facilities.

During a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday evening, Stapleton-Barrera said her campaign was still waiting for all the final votes to get tallied. She also said if the results weren’t in her favor, she would “absolutely” run again.

Lucio, who ranks third in seniority in the Senate, was first elected to the Senate about 30 years ago. During the Democratic campaign, he touted his seniority, experience and local ties.

In the March primary, Lucio narrowly missed an outright win — garnering about 49.8% of the total votes. He needed 50%. Stapleton-Barrera had the second-most votes, with about 35%.

Another Senate runoff that drew considerable attention was the Democratic race to go against state Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton. State Rep. Roland Gutierrez held a 53%-47% lead over Xochil Peña Rodriguez, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office late Tuesday night.

Flores is a freshman senator in a historically Democratic district spanning 17 counties that stretch from the Texas-Mexico border up to southern San Antonio. Flores fell short in his bid to upset state Sen. Carlos Uresti for the seat in 2016.He then won a 2018 special election after Uresti, D-San Antonio, resigned after being found guilty of felony fraud and money laundering crimes.

As of late Tuesday evening, the special election to replace former state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, appeared to be headed for a runoff. Former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, a Democrat, and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, were topping the field.

Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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