Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne declared victory Tuesday night in the race for Texas' 24th Congressional District, as her opponent's campaign called the claim "premature and irresponsible."
Van Duyne, the Republican candidate, held a 2-point lead over Democrat Candace Valenzuela with 74% of precincts reporting as of 12:50 a.m. Wednesday.
The Associated Press had not called the race as of early Wednesday. Valenzuela's campaign released a statement that said the candidate would not address the media Tuesday and instead would wait for a definitive result.
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Valenzuela is a former Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD school board member.
The seat was held by U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R), who is retiring after eight terms, leaving a district that turned into a battleground in the 2018 midterm election up for grabs.
After Marchant won Texas' 24th Congressional District by 17 points in 2016, he came out on top by a 3-point margin two years ago.
The district covers parts of Dallas, Tarrant and Denton counties.
Van Duyne served two and a half years as a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Texas regional appointee in the Trump Administration after six years as Irving mayor and six years on the Irving City Council. She won the Republican nomination in March with 61% of the vote in a five-person field.
Van Duyne’s family joined her on the campaign trail on Election Day, including her baby nephew dressed in a "Beth Van Duyne for Congress" onesie.
Van Duyne spent Election Day greeting voters across Dist. 24, including people in Carrollton and Colleyville.
The conservative candidate said she’s pro-police, pro-business and suggests personal freedoms will be eroded if the country swings left.
The New York native has received several endorsements, including from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News which said it was "cautiously" endorsing Van Duyne over Valenzuela.
The DMN said Van Duyne "has the resume to be a strong, productive member of Congress. Unfortunately, she also possesses the attack instincts to worsen Washington’s toxic political landscape."
Van Duyne’s biggest endorsement came from President Donald Trump in a tweet.
“I’ve seen the polls, but I’ve also been working these neighborhoods. I know these people and have been talking to folks and I’m very confident that they will see somebody who’s a pragmatist, who wants the best and who can represent," she said. "And I’m very optimistic that we’re going to get their support tonight.”
If elected to Congress, Van Duyne said three things she’ll work on immediately are jump-starting the economy again, working on a healthcare plan that protects those with pre-existing conditions and on national security issues like energy independence.
She was one of just a few candidates who opted to hold an in-person event Tuesday.
Van Duyne watched election results in Hurst with the Tarrant County GOP.
Valenzuela finished second to Air Force veteran Kim Olson, who garnered 41% of the vote, in the Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. But Valenzuela bested Olson by a double-digit margin in the July primary runoff after she received high-profile endorsements from the likes of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta).
Valenzuela is an El Paso native who faced homelessness as a child but became the first person in her family to graduate college. If elected, she'd mark another milestone by becoming the first Black-Latina in Congress, while also flipping a GOP stronghold.
"Being a politician isn't just about being in front of the cameras and talking to great people, it's about being in the room where decisions are made and too many folks in those rooms have not been speaking up for working families, have not been speaking up for folks who struggle from day to day," Valenzuela said while she greeted voters at the Euless Senior Center on Election Day.
Valenzuela crisscrossed the district Tuesday, stopping at about a half dozen polling locations trying to map out a path to victory.
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Health care was at the forefront of the discussion when both candidates appeared on Lone Star Politics on Sept. 27.
"What we have seen through the Affordable Care Act is increases in costs, decreases in access, and quite honestly decreases in quality," Van Duyne said on the show. "I think people, given the choice. would choose to have their own plans and be able to personalize them, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all government plan."
Valenzuela advocated for a public option and pledged to protect pre-existing conditions.
"The system of care I am advocating for is a robust public option so folks can choose not to have it, but it covers 100% of costs for people making under $50,000 a year and 90% of costs for folks that make more than $50,000 a year," she said.
The race became an expensive one, drawing the attention of national groups. Both candidates received support from their parties' congressional campaign committees.