WASHINGTON -- The former White House physician under President Donald Trump as well as three other Republicans are likely heading to Congress next year after winning primary runoffs in ruby-red districts Tuesday.
The GOP contests were the main events in two districts in Texas and two in Alabama, where Republican retirements opened up House seats that are likely to remain in the GOP column.
The retiring lawmakers in all four districts picked their preferred candidates, but only one of the four was successful. Two familiar faces, former White House physician Ronny Jackson and former GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, won their primary runoffs in Texas. In Alabama, the anti-tax Club for Growth got one of its preferred candidates in one race and lost in a second.
Familiar Texans GOP Rep. Mac Thornberry did not get his preferred successor Tuesday, with Jackson defeating lobbyist Josh Winegarner in the runoff for the 13th District in the Texas Panhandle. President Donald Trump endorsed Jackson, which likely boosted his campaign. Winegarner had support from Thornberry and a number of other state and local elected officials.
Jackson led with 56% of the vote to Winegarner's 44% when The Associated Press called the race with an estimated 90% of precincts reporting.
Jackson also benefited from outside group spending in the race. The Club for Growth, House Freedom Fund and a new super PAC called Miles of Greatness Fund all spent in the lead-up to Tuesday.
In the runoff, Jackson touted his close personal relationship with Trump, who nominated him for Veterans Affairs secretary in 2018. But Jackson ended up withdrawing from consideration amid allegations that he abused alcohol and mishandled prescription drugs, charges he denied.
"I will be ... the only freshman congressman that can walk into the Oval Office unannounced and tell the president of the United States, 'Sir, I've got something I got to make you aware of,' " Jackson said at a recent debate. "And he will stop what he's doing and listen."
Jackson will be the overwhelming favorite in November against Democrat Gus Trujillo, who won his runoff Tuesday. Trump carried the district by 63 points in 2016, his widest margin of any House district in the country. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Solid Republican.
And in the 17th District, which is anchored in Waco and College Station, retiring Rep. Bill Flores' preferred candidate also did not win the GOP runoff.
Flores had endorsed businesswoman Renee Swann, but she lost to Sessions, who ran for the seat after losing reelection in 2018 in the 32nd District in Dallas.
With an estimated 89% of precincts reporting, Sessions led Swann 54% to 46% when the AP called the race.
Sessions is expected to return to Congress since the 17th District is much more Republican than his old House seat. Voters in the 17th District haven't elected a Democrat since Chet Edwards won a final term in 2008. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.
Alabama is also poised to send two new Republicans to the House from open seats. Rep. Bradley Byrne vacated the Mobile-anchored 1st District to launch an unsuccessful Senate run and Rep. Martha Roby is not running for reelection in the 2nd District in southeast Alabama. One of the preferred successors won his primary runoff.
Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who was endorsed by Byrne and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was leading former state Sen. Bill Hightower 52% to 48% in the 1st District runoff when the AP called the race. Hightower was backed by the Club for Growth.
In the 2nd District, former state Rep. Barry Moore, who had support from the club and the tea party-aligned House Freedom Action, defeated businessman Jeff Coleman, who was endorsed by Roby and the Chamber of Commerce. When the AP called the race at 9:02 p.m., Moore was up 59% to 41%.
Both Moore and Carl are expected to win their respective districts in November. Inside Elections rates both races Solid Republican.
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