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Michelle Vallejo declared victory Wednesday in the runoff of the Democratic primaries for the national battleground of the 15th congressional district in South Texas.
Her statement came eight days after election night, when she emerged with a 23-vote margin over opponent Ruben Ramirez. His margin rose to 33 votes as the district’s largest counties began releasing their unofficial final results on Wednesday.
But Ramirez was not ready to concede. His campaign said in a statement that “it is essential that every voter has their say before a final call is made.” The statement suggested the campaign still saw a path to victory.
“South Texas politics have a long history of upset victories,” the statement said.
Counties have until late Thursday to report their final numbers to the state, and even then, candidates can still request recounts. Since election night, counties have been counting mail-in ballots that were postmarked at the 11th hour, military and foreign ballots that were due to arrive Tuesday, and provisional ballots.
It was one of two major South Texas Democratic runoffs that were shaky coming out of election night. The other is the runoff for the 28th congressional district, where nine-term moderate U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, took on progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros. He led by 177 votes after election night, a margin that narrowed to 155 as some counties, including larger ones, announced their unofficial final results on Wednesday.
Cuellar, who faced tougher re-election after his home was raided in January by the FBI, already declared victory on election night, while Cisneros said the 177-vote margin made the race too close to be announced. Coming out of election night in the 15th arrondissement, Vallejo and Ramirez had agreed that the race was too close to announce.
But on Wednesday, three counties that represent only a fraction of the district’s electorate — Hidalgo, Guadalupe and Jim Wells — had released unofficial final results that widened Vallejo’s lead to 33 votes.
Candidates can request recounts if their margin is less than 10% of the number of votes obtained by their opponent. Ramirez and Cisneros are currently well within that range.
If Vallejo’s winning margin holds, it’s a win for the progressives. She had campaigned on issues such as the single-payer health care system known as “Medicare for All”.
“Now more than ever, we need a South Texas voice that will act boldly from South Texas,” Vallejo said in his victory statement, referring to the Uvalde shooting that occurred. the same day as the second round last week. “I come from a large family of farm workers, immigrants and entrepreneurs and I know what it takes to roll up my sleeves and fight for what’s right.”
The Republican nominee for the open seat in the 15th District is Monica De La Cruz, who ran a surprisingly close race in 2020 when the incumbent was Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez de McAllen. She won her primary in March. National Republicans see the 15th District as their best pick-up opportunity this fall in Texas, pushing to make further inroads into South Texas.
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