Today votes will be tabulated in key congressional runoffs in Alabama and Texas. Each state has a high-profile Senate runoff and both states have competitive runoffs for various House seats. The states of all of the competitive races tomorrow will be discussed here so you have the information you need going into primary night. Elections Daily will be covering all of these races on our live coverage stream tonight at 7:45 EDT.
Republican Senate runoff
This Tuesday the first results will begin reporting in the competitive Republican runoff for Alabama’s Class 2 Senate seat. The race in Alabama is considered the best Republican opportunity to flip a Senate seat from the Democrats in 2020 by most professional pundits. Elections Daily has the race at Likely Republican.
Republican opposition has been brewing here since Democratic attorney Doug Jones narrowly defeated controversial Republican Roy Moore in the 2017 special election. Because of the surprising nature of Jones’s victory in the typically-Republican state, a wide Republican primary field developed.
Seven candidates ended up on the first round ballot in the Spring. The four main candidates were generally considered to be former Senator Jeff Sessions, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, 1st district congressman Bradley Byrne, and 2017 nominee Roy Moore.
As the campaign began, national Republicans were relieved to see Roy Moore garnering little support in opinion polling. This assuaged their fears of Moore potentially securing the nomination again and costing the Republicans the seat in November.
Interestingly enough, polling in Alabama was fairly accurate going into the first round of voting. Fourteen credible polls were conducted during the spring campaign. Sessions and Tuberville held the top-two spots in nine of those polls.
Because of the polling data, most pundits expected Sessions and Tuberville to advance to the runoff. The final WPA Intelligence/Club for Growth poll turned out to be the most accurate. It showed Tuberville leading Sessions 32-29% with Byrne in third with 17%. When the votes were tabulated, Tuberville led Sessions 33-32% with Byrne taking 25% and 10% going to other candidates.
The First Round
Looking at the results of the first round, the coalitions were geographically well-defined.
Sessions won Madison County (Huntsville) and its surroundings, Tuscaloosa County, eight counties in Alabama’s “Black Belt” (including Montgomery), and eight counties in the Southeastern corner of the state along the Florida panhandle.
Tuberville did very well in majority-white rural counties along the Georgia and Mississippi borders. He also pulled a significant amount of votes from Birmingham’s Jefferson County and its surrounding suburbs, as well as Lee county – the home of Auburn University.
Byrne, who finished in third, won seven counties, most of which were within his Mobile-based 1st district. He won by double-digits in Mobile and Baldwin counties, which are the beating heart of his House district. Byrne’s coalition was a perfect example of the regional divides in competitive primaries where local name recognition is key.
Because no candidate received more than 50% of the popular vote, the top two finishers advanced to a runoff. The runoff was initially scheduled to occur in March, but was rescheduled to be conducted in July due to COVID-19. Tuberville and Sessions, who is running to reclaim the seat he resigned from to become President Trump’s Attorney General, moved on to the second round because they finished in first and second place, respectively.
The runoff campaign between the two men has been quite volatile. Sessions has resorted to a defensive campaign style in an effort to fend off attacks from his old boss, President Trump. Trump endorsed Tuberville over Sessions last month. Sessions’s fall from Trump’s favor has been quite ironic considering he was one of the first Senators to publicly-endorse the President during his 2016 campaign.
Despite his estrangement from Trump over the last few months, Sessions has argued repeatedly that he still believes firmly in the policies of the Trump Administration. This, coupled with his previous experience in the Senate, are being used by his campaign to attempt to reassure voters that he can still be an effective leader.
In addition to Tuberville’s support from President Trump, he has maintained a strong polling lead over Sessions. Ten runoff polls have been conducted by various outlets since February. Sessions has trailed Tuberville in eight of these polls. Since May, Tuberville’s lead in the polls has expanded, possibly a result of Trump’s endorsement. The final polling average ahead of today’s runoff is 49.5% Tuberville, 38.8% Sessions, and 11.7% undecided.
These polling data are justifiable evidence to characterize coach Tuberville as the frontrunner in today’s runoff. A Tuberville win would be a victory for President Trump, whose endorsement record in Republican primaries has recently struggled. The winner of the runoff will be a widely-accepted favorite against Democratic Senator Doug Jones in November. Jones has a formidable war chest, but is unlikely to garner enough Trump/Jones voters to hold his seat if the President wins Alabama by double-digits as expected.
Republican Runoff in AL-01
One of the most competitive congressional runoffs in Alabama today is in the 1st district. This seat includes Mobile and the surrounding area. The competitive primary began when Byrne retired from his seat to make an unsuccessful bid for the US Senate. Three major candidates competed for the nomination in the spring primary: former state senator Bill Hightower, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, and state representative Chris Pringle.
Most polling showed Hightower leading the field, but on election day commissioner Jerry Carl finished first with a 38.7-37.5% lead over Hightower. Pringle finished third with 19.2% and failed to qualify for the July runoff.
The runoff race is expected to be fairly competitive, and there has been no polling data to confirm a favorite here. Despite the lack of polling, there is evidence to suggest that Carl is the favorite to win this evening. He is from Mobile County, which cast 48.2% of the vote in the spring primary. Additionally, he carried all but one county over Hightower earlier this year. If he expands off of his seven-point margin of victory in critical Mobile County tonight then he should be able to win the runoff.
This district is rated as Safe Republican by Elections Daily. The Republican nominee, regardless of whom it ends up being, is heavily favored to win here in November.
Republican runoff in Alabama’s 2nd district
The second competitive Republican house runoff in Alabama tonight is in the 2nd district, which has been represented by retiring Republican Martha Roby since 2011. Roby retired after a series of disagreements with President Trump earlier this year, opening the way for a crowded Republican field.
The field narrowed after Jeff Coleman and Barry Moore won the spring primary, advancing to the runoff. Coleman is a businessman who has been endorsed by Roby. Moore is a former state representative who has been endorsed by prominent conservative members of Congress like Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs, as well as the Club for Growth.
Much like the neighboring 1st, there has been no polling here to determine a definitive favorite in the runoff. Despite this, Coleman could be seen as a favorite because of his strong showing in the spring, he finished 18 points ahead of his second place challenger Moore. But Moore should not be counted out because Club for Growth candidates, like Rich McCormick in Georgia’s 7th, have successfully defeated establishment favorites in recent primary elections.
Either candidate would easily win this seat in November; it is rated as a Safe Republican district by all prominent election forecasters.
Democratic Senate runoff
This evening we will get results for Texas’s most important statewide race: the Democratic Senate runoff. The competitive election is between former congressional candidate MJ Hegar and state senator Royce West. Hegar took 22.3% of the vote in the first round. West finished in second place with 14.5% of the vote.
For the entirety of the runoff campaign Hegar has been considered the frontrunner. She leads West in fundraising, has the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and has received the support of prominent female Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tammy Duckworth.
But Hegar’s status as the favorite is not cemented. Her leads in runoff polling have been decreasing, with West only 4 points down in the final Republican TargetPoint poll. West has also received countless important endorsements from members of Congress, including three from prominent African American members of the House: Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Houston Congressman Al Green, and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters. Prominent Texas Democrats like Joaquin Castro, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Eddie Bernice Johnson have also endorsed West.
We don’t yet know if West’s late boost of attention will allow him to beat Hegar. However, the runoff has the potential to be closer than polls suggest. Nonetheless, the evidence shows Hegar retaining her status as the frontrunner – she still leads West in polling by an average of 12 points.
The consensus rating for the general election here is Likely Republican. John Cornyn, the long-time incumbent and former Senate Majority Whip, remains a strong favorite. Cornyn maintains strong leads over both of his prospective opponents in hypothetical general election polls. He has also managed to maintain a strong lead in the fundraising category against Hegar and West.
Democratic Runoff in TX-10
The Democrats have a competitive runoff in TX-10 to determine their nominee against Republican Congressman Michael McCaul in November. When the seat was drawn, the Democratic primary here would not have been important due to the Republican advantage. However, the 10th, like many seats in Texas, is becoming more favorable for Democrats. McCaul was reelected in 2018 with just 51.1% of the vote. Pundits have consistently rated this year’s race as Leans Republican.
The two candidates in the runoff are Mike Siegel, an attorney who was the nominee for the seat in 2018, and Pritesh Gandhi, a physician. Siegel took 44% in the first round, just 6 points short of the 50% required to avoid a runoff. If he holds onto his base and flips enough voters who supported eliminated-candidate Shannon Hutcheson’s campaign then he will likely beat Gandhi to secure the nomination for the seat again.
Siegel has the support of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. He’s also backed by the AFL-CIO and Brand New Congress. Gandhi’s only high-profile endorsement is from California Senator Kamala Harris.
Siegel only lost to McCaul by a 51.1-46.8% margin in 2018, and the district is expected to be competitive again in 2020. It is one of the top Democratic targets in Texas this cycle and continues to show positive trends for Democrats long-term.
Republican Runoff in TX-13
Texas’s 13th district, which was once predominantly Democratic throughout most of the 20th century but is now one of the reddest seats in the nation, is the site of a competitive Republican runoff for the House. In this district, the Republican primary is tantamount to the election – making it more important than the November general election.
The Republican primary became wide open when long-time Congressman Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced his retirement from Congress. A large field of fifteen candidates quickly formed and the campaign became a free for all. When the results were tallied, former aide to Senator Phil Gramm Josh Winegarner led the field with 39% of the vote. Former White House physician Ronny Jackson finished in second with 20% of the vote.
There is no clear favorite in the primary, but Ronny Jackson has some strong advantages. He has the fervent support of President Trump, a critical asset in the nation’s reddest district. Jackson has also led Winegarner in both credible polls conducted. He led in a WPA Intelligence/Club for Growth poll 49-41% and in a Frabizio, Lee & Associates/Miles of Greatness Fund poll 46-29%. Regardless of who wins tonight, they will be a strong favorite to become the 13th’s next Representative.
Republican Runoff in TX-17
In Texas’s 17th district there is a competitive Republican primary runoff to replace Congressman Bill Flores, who has represented the seat since 2011. The two candidates in the runoff are Pete Sessions, the former Representative of the 32nd district in the Dallas suburbs, and Renee Swann, a healthcare executive. Sessions advanced to the runoff with 31.6% of the vote, while Swann finished in second with 19% of the vote.
Sessions has been accused of carpetbagging for moving to a safely Republican district after losing reelection in his old district in 2018. Congressman Flores, along with a bevy of local politicians, endorsed Swann. Sessions has the backing of the NRA and the Texas Right to Life Committee.
The frontrunner here is unclear, and we do not know if voters will reject Sessions for carpetbagging to another seat. Because the district is Safe Republican, the winner of the primary is heavily favored to hold the seat for the GOP in November.
Republican Runoff in TX-22
Another high-profile runoff is happening on the Republican side in Texas’s 22nd district. Taking in the Houston suburbs, the 22nd has been represented by Republican Pete Olson since 2009. The 22nd has been moving towards the Democrats over the last decade. Olson only narrowly held his seat in 2018 – winning with just 51.4% of the vote. For these reasons, the 22nd is rated as a Tossup. It remains one of the top Democratic targets in the state of Texas this cycle.
The two Republican candidates in the runoff are Fort Bend County Sherrif Troy Nehls and GOP donor Kathaleen Wall. The runoff campaign here has been raucous. Both candidates appear to be trying to “out-conservative” one another. This is a potentially dangerous strategy in a swing district in a year where Democrats maintain a strong lead in the generic ballot average for the US House.
Nehls is the favorite in the runoff. He finished far ahead of Wall in the first round and led Wall 61-28% in a recent poll. Even though the Remington poll was an internal, it is not a good sign for Wall. Wall may have more endorsements than Nehls, but endorsements do not always equal votes.
The eventual nominee will face Sri Preston Kulkarni, the 2018 nominee for the seat. Kulkarni is likely to run a strong campaign again, and he may be able to win with the seat open. The race here will be one of the closest in Texas in November. It’s is already an important target for both House campaign committees.
Republican runoff in Texas’s 23rd district
Due to the retirement of moderate Republican Congressman Will Hurd, the 23rd district is likely to flip to the Democrats in November. Hurd’s retirement has also resulted a competitive Republican primary runoff.
The two candidates in the runoff are Navy veteran Tony Gonzales, who took 28.1% of the vote, and Air Force veteran Raul Reyes, who finished in second in the first round with 23.3% of the vote. Gonzales is being supported by President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Hurd has also endorsed him. Reyes has been endorsed by Ted Cruz, Texas’s Junior Senator and a former Presidential candidate.
The primary favorite is generally considered to be Gonzales, but there has been no polling to predict the outcome. The winner here will be an underdog against 2018 candidate Gina Ortiz Jones here in 2020. Jones is a strong fundraiser, and Biden is expected to win this district in 2020 by a stable margin. Elections Daily rates this race as Likely Democratic.
Democratic Runoff in TX-24
The Democratic primary runoff to determine which Democrat will face Republican Beth Van Duyne in the race for retiring Republican Kenny Marchant’s seat in November has become one of Texas’s most-watched runoffs.
The matchup is between former Air Force Colonel Kim Olson, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Texas Agricultural Commissioner, and school board member Candace Valenzuela. Olson, who has the support of nine Democratic Representatives and the Dallas Morning News. She was initially viewed as the favorite, but now appears to be vulnerable to her more progressive opponent.
Valenzuela has also wracked up some important endorsements, including the support of Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as that of Representatives John Lewis and Ayanna Pressley.
In addition to her high profile endorsement list, Valenzuela has led Olson 52-37% in the only runoff poll of the campaign. While that Data for Progress poll likely overestimates Valenzuela, it is not good news for the Olson campaign. If Valenzuela wins tonight, it will certainly be a morale boost for Texas progressives after Jessica Cisneros narrowly failed to defeat Congressman Henry Cuellar in the primary earlier this year.
The general election here is expected to be very competitive regardless of the nominee. The increasing Democratic strength in Texas suburbs has helped make countless districts that were once safe Republican competitive, and the 24th remains a strong example of these trends. With Marchant’s retirement the open race is competitive. Elections Daily rates this race as Leans Republican, but a Tossup rating is possible in the coming weeks.
Democratic runoff in Texas’s 31st district
One final runoff to watch tonight is the Democratic primary runoff in the 31st district. The seat is represented by Republican John Carter and is rated as Likely Republican by Elections Daily. While this district is considered a stretch for Democrats in 2020, it will still likely be competitive like it was in 2018 when MJ Hegar lost 50-47%.
The runoff is between computer engineer Donna Imam and physician Christine Eady Mann. There has been no polling to gauge the voter support in this matchup as of yet, but Imam appears to have more political support for her bid.
While the race will likely be competitive again in 2020, it is unclear if the eventual Democratic primary winner here will be as strong of a candidate as MJ Hegar was in her 2018 bid. This race isn’t at the top of the list of close races in November, but it is still a seat to watch this cycle.
Where can I find results?
Our friends at Decision Desk HQ have allowed us to show their Senate results on our site. You can find them here:
Congressional runoffs will be covered on the Elections Daily livestream, which begins at 7:45 EDT.