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Pete Sessions, Rick Kennedy advance in race for District 17 US House seat

Pete Sessions, Rick Kennedy advance in race for District 17 US House seat

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Democrat Rick Kennedy and Republican Pete Sessions will face off on Nov. 3 for the open U.S. House District 17 seat after both candidates won their primary runoff elections Tuesday night.

Kennedy, an Austin-area software engineer who lost to U.S. Rep. Bill Flores in 2018, decisively defeated David Anthony Jaramillo of Waco. Sessions, who lost his Dallas congressional seat in 2018, defeated Renee Swann, retired chief operations manager for Brazos Eye Surgery of Texas.

Sessions moved to Waco to compete for the seat to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, who said he would not run for another term.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 80.4% of polling locations reporting, Sessions was ahead of Swann 54% to 46%, and Kennedy led Jaramillo 57.3% to 42.7%, according to data from the Texas Secretary of State office.

In a phone interview with the Waco Tribune-Herald, Sessions reflected on his runoff victory.

“This has been a long, protracted battle where people clearly understood the differences in our campaigns,” Sessions said. “They clearly understand that I intend to continue my 22-year perfect record for the Texas Farm Bureau. That I intend to continue my 100% record for right to life and my 100% record for supporting the National Rifle Association.”

“I am going to represent a powerful district that will be led from the bottom up, not the top down from now on. Mr. Flores liked to get things from the top down, and I am not that way,” Sessions said.

Sessions expressed gratitude for the support of his Republican primary opponents Scott Bland, George Hindman and Laurie McReynolds, adding that his campaign benefitted from their ideas.

Kennedy on Tuesday night told The Eagle that he offers a “polar opposite” choice to Sessions.

“I’m an engineer by training, and I’m looking for solutions to our problems. I’m not looking for any specifically Democratic solution or Republican solution — I’m looking for effective and achievable solutions,” Kennedy said. “I believe that the divisiveness and dysfunction of the last 25 years has truly weakened this country and brought us to the point where we are now. We’ve got to start pulling this country back together.”

Kennedy encouraged people to go to his website and set up a “virtual block walk” to talk with him by telephone, and, in a statement, praised Jaramillo and primary candidate William Foster III on their campaigns. 

Swann articulated congratulations to Sessions in a statement posted on social media sites Tuesday night.

“I will never be able to repay the blessings so many people have bestowed on Russell and me during this amazing journey. Unfortunately, we came up a little short,” Swann wrote. “I offer my congratulations to Pete Sessions and ask everyone who cares about preserving what is great and amazing in our country to support him in the general election.”

Jaramillo conceded the Democratic race late Tuesday and endorsed Kennedy during a Facebook Live video in which he thanked his supporters, family, friends, volunteers, interns and staff. He encouraged his supporters to vote for Kennedy come November.

“Don’t stop this movement that we all have made. Keep pushing. Now we need to make sure Pete Sessions does not go back to Congress,” Jaramillo said.


Eagle staff writer Chelsea Katz contributed to this report.

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