Pete Sessions Set to Return to Congress but Jeff Sessions Isn’t

Former Rep. Pete Sessions is likely headed back to Washington, but former Sen. Jeff Sessions isn’t.

The pair, of no relation, both saw their political careers derailed in November 2018 — Pete Sessions was unseated by a Democratic challenger, and Jeff Sessions was asked by President Donald Trump to resign as attorney general.

Pete Sessions moved to a more heavily Republican district in Texas and won a primary runoff Tuesday, while Jeff Sessions’ quest for his former seat ended in a runoff against Trump-backed former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Those races were among the most closely watched on a primary night in Alabama, Maine and Texas that set up three top Senate races and several competitive House contests, and decided a handful of presumptive new members of Congress.

Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Pete Sessions, then the House Rules Committee chairman, waving to reporters as he departs the Capitol in December 2018. Sessions is poised to return to Congress after winning a primary runoff in Texas.

Senate Races

Jeff Sessions’ loss to Tuberville in Alabama headlined the night’s results. Tuberville will now take on the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate, Doug Jones. The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections both rate the race as Lean Republican.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) easily defeated two other candidates and will face four-term Sen. Susan Collins (R) in a race rated as a toss-up.

Air Force veteran MJ Hegar (D) will challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) after narrowly defeating state Sen. Royce West (D) in a runoff. Though the race is considered Likely Republican by Cook, this is one of the states where Democrats could expand their map to win the majority this fall.

Read More:Trump-Backed Tommy Tuberville Sends Jeff Sessions Packing

House Races to Watch

Texas is a centerpiece of Democrats’ ambition to expand their House majority, thanks to Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs, Republican retirements, and promising results in the midterms. After the March 3 primaries and now the runoffs, both parties’ nominees have been decided in all but one race.

Two Republican military veterans were separated by 7 votes as of early Wednesday in the race to replace retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R) in the 23rd District, which runs along the U.S.-Mexico border and is one of the top Democratic targets in the country. The winner will face Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, who lost to Hurd by half a percentage point in 2018.

In the other Republican runoff for a competitive open seat, the 22nd District in Houston’s southern and western exurbs, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls defeated GOP donor Kathaleen Wall 70%-30%. Nehls faces former diplomat Sri Preston Kulkarni (D), who lost by 5 points in 2018 to Rep. Pete Olson (R), who is retiring after this term.

In Democratic runoffs in GOP-held districts, civil rights lawyer Mike Siegel prevailed in the 10th District and will again challenge Rep. Mike McCaul (R) after losing by 4 points in 2018; former school board member Candace Valenzuela won by 20 points in a contentious race with retired Air Force Col. Kim Olson to take on former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne (R) in the open 24th District; and computer engineer Donna Imam won a close contest in the 31st District to face Rep. John Carter (R), who was re-elected by only a 3-point margin in 2018.

The only competitive House seat outside Texas to watch Tuesday was Maine’s 2nd District, where three Republicans ran to take on freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D). That nomination is headed to a ranked-choice instant runoff after none of the candidates received a majority of the vote, and the result may not be known for a week.

Shoo-Ins

There were four runoff winners in safely Republican districts in Texas and Alabama.

Former White House physician Ronny Jackson, who was backed by Trump, scored a double-digit win in Texas’ 13th District over former Senate aide and lobbyist Josh Winegarner, who’d been endorsed by retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry (R).

Pete Sessions, a former chairman of the Rules Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, won by a narrower margin and is now set to replace retiring Rep. Bill Flores (R) in the 17th District that includes Waco, Bryan, and College Station. That’s the area where Sessions was born, but not the seat he previously held for 11 terms.

In Alabama, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl (R) bested former state Sen. Bill Hightower (R) in the 1st District to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne (R), who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. And former state Rep. Barry Moore (R) easily defeated wealthy businessman Jeff Coleman (R) to replace retiring Rep. Martha Roby (R).

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Trygstad in Washington at ktrygstad@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com

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