Heated GOP 13th Congressional District runoff to be decided on Tuesday

In Texas’ 13th district Republican primary runoff, Josh Winegarner and Ronny Jackson are engaged in a big-spending contest, pitting President Donald Trump’s endorsement against a candidate backed by agricultural interests. After weeks of waiting, this heated race will finally be decided on Tuesday.

Winegarner, a former lobbyist for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, is running with establishment support from within the state. He has endorsements from a slew of current and former Texas public officials, including the district’s retiring incumbent, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas). 

Jackson, the former White House physician to Trump, was also the president’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but withdrew after allegations of misconduct and promoting a hostile work environment. The president endorsed Jackson’s congressional run, and several organizations affiliated with the tea party movement, such as Eagle Forum and Texas Right to Life, are also endorsing Jackson’s bid. But Jackson is getting  institutional support of his own, with endorsements from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

The district is considered the most conservative congressional district in the country with a Cook PVI rating of “R+33.” The winner of the runoff will most likely represent the Texas Panhandle in the next Congress. 

In the first round of voting, Winegarner received 39 percent of the vote. Jackson finished second with 20 percent. Although Winegarner held a large lead in the first round, Chris Ekstrom, who finished third with 15 percent, later endorsed Jackson. No other candidate in the 15-way race received more than 10 percent of the vote. 

Each candidate has raised large amounts for the race. Winegarner brought in $1.1 million compared to Jackson’s almost $900,000 fundraising haul since the start of the campaign. However, Jackson reported just over $207,000 cash on hand in the final days before the primary. Winegarner trails Jackson with little more than $170,000 cash on hand.  

Despite strong fundraising hauls for both candidates, outside groups have descended on the race, and the competition for outside spending is lopsided. 

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Outside groups have spent more than $871,000 to support Jackson’s campaign, while Winegarner has received a little more than $406,000 in outside support. 

Club for Growth Action spent more than $301,000 on behalf of Jackson’s candidacy.  The influential group that supports fiscal conservatives has spent $13 million to exert influence in more than 30 races this cycle. Miles of Greatness Fund, a single-candidate super PAC funded by Texas donors, has spent nearly $498,000 backing Jackson. 

Winegarner’s main source of outside spending and contributions comes from livestock and agricultural interests, rather than groups united in conservative ideology.  

Ag Together PAC has spent nearly $238,000 on behalf of Winegarner’s campaign, including an additional $137,000 opposing Jackson. The major source of funding for Ag Together came from Winegarner’s former employer, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, and its affiliates. His campaign has also received more than $309,000 in donations from livestock and agriculture interests. 

Winegarner has also been supported by the Texas Farm Bureau with more than $113,000 in outside spending. 

Support from the livestock and agriculture industries, though, has put Winegarner under the spotlight for his time as a lobbyist. Jackson has unleashed a barrage of attacks throughout the campaign, referencing the times Winegarner opposed Trump administration initiatives when he was still a lobbyist in 2017, Texas Scorecard reported. 

Winegarner has attacked Jackson as a carpetbagger who only decided to run for Congress after withdrawing his nomination as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The move by Winegarner’s campaign came under scrutiny from veterans in the district, and Jackson said he would not apologize for his military service or wanting to serve veterans in that post before running for Congress.