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Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison has defeated fellow Republican John Wray in the hard-fought special election runoff for Wray’s old seat in the Texas House.
With all vote centers reporting Tuesday night, Harrison was beating Wray by 10 percentage points, according to unofficial results. Harrison was getting 55% of the vote, while Wray had 45%.
Wray held the seat for three terms before passing on a reelection bid last year.
Wray’s successor, Waxahachie Republican Jake Ellzey, ascended to Congress in July, prompting the contest to fill the state House seat. Harrison and Wray were the top two finishers in the eight-way special election late last month, with Harrison finishing 5 points ahead of Wray.
Ellzey endorsed Wray to succeed him, while Harrison had the backing of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz as he campaigned as the more reliable conservative.
The runoff was contentious, with Wray accusing Harrison of deceiving voters about his tenure as chief of staff to former U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar. Harrison criticized Wray as insufficiently conservative when he previously served in the House.
Education was a flashpoint in particular, as Harrison campaigned as a supporter of “school choice” and Wray positioned himself as a stronger advocate for public schools. An array of teachers groups lined up behind Wray, while Harrison sought to make him answer for their positions that run counter to current GOP orthodoxy, like support for mask mandates in schools.
The runoff took a turn for the personal in its final days as Wray’s wife blasted Harrison for “false, negative attacks and rumors about our family.” Wray’s campaign said she was referring to an anonymous text message spreading an unconfirmed rumor about Wray’s 2019 decision not to seek reelection; Harrison’s campaign said it had nothing to do with the text.
The 2021 Texas Tribune Festival, the weeklong celebration of politics and policy featuring big names and bold ideas, wrapped on Sept. 25, but there’s still time to tune in. Explore dozens of free, on-demand events before midnight Thursday, Sept. 30, at tribfest.org.