Dallas State Sen. Royce West Headed for U.S. Senate Runoff

Texas state Sen. Royce West speaks to a Dallas crowd in 2016.EXPAND
Texas state Sen. Royce West speaks to a Dallas crowd in 2016.
Mikel Galicia
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A little more than 21 hours after polls closed in Dallas County, Texas' last major outstanding election result finally came in: Long-serving Dallas state Sen. Royce West finished second with 14.5% of the vote in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, advancing to a May runoff with former Air Force helicopter pilot and congressional candidate MJ Hegar. Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, a progressive activist, finished third, just behind West with 13.3% of the vote.

"I am humbled and grateful for the support I have received from across the state in this race, and honored to have a chance to continue this race to represent our great state in the United States Senate," West said. "I believe we are well-positioned to win the runoff. The runoff is a brand-new day."

As county registrars released early vote totals Tuesday night, it quickly became clear that Hegar, who'd led in polls throughout the run-up to the election, was going to finish first in the 12-candidate field seeking to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. The race between West and Tzintzun Ramirez was much closer, with Tzintzun Ramirez holding a small but persistent lead on the Texas Secretary of State's website until vote totals started coming in to the state from Dallas County, where West received almost 44% of the vote.

Tzintzun Ramirez conceded Wednesday afternoon.

“Though we will not advance to a runoff, we accomplished something great," Tzintzun Ramirez said. "This campaign was consistently underestimated. I ran as a progressive, as a Latina, and as a working mom. We ran this campaign unapologetically, and we all have so much to be proud of for what we’ve accomplished.”

West will face an uphill battle against Hegar, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones told the Observer.

"Royce West has a ceiling, both in terms of charisma and policy but also because of some of the more unsavory aspects of Dallas County politics," Jones said. "It affects his image, and if MJ Hegar were to feel threatened, it's a pretty easy thing to bring up."

West, an attorney, has faced criticism for taking millions in legal fees from governmental agencies during his time in the Senate.

The Texas Democratic Party praised both candidates in a statement issued after Tzintzun Ramirez's concession.

“Our U.S. Senate candidates represent all of Texas. They’re knocking on doors and talking with Texas voters about the issues that matter to them,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “The electorate in Texas is rapidly changing. Texas Democrats are engaging and turning out our base, registering new voters and building a winning coalition. This year we will take out John Cornyn and turn Texas blue.”

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