Results show tight races for East Texas candidates in local, sta - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Results show tight races for East Texas candidates in local, statewide elections

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Big primaries in East Texas went late into Tuesday night, as candidates and supporters anxiously waited for results on multiple high-profile local races.

Two big races included two separate incumbent state senators fighting to keep their seats in the Texas State House. One of those races resulted with an upset, while the other put the incumbent back in his seat with a surprisingly high majority.

In what was likely the closest race of the night, Stuart Spitzer took down incumbent State House, District 4 Senator Lance Gooden, with just 51% of the vote. That district represents parts of Henderson and Kaufman counties. Spitzer, an Athens native and doctor, was backed by Grassroots America. But what’s most interesting about the race is that Gooden is all too familiar with the scenario, except last time, he was on the victorious team. Back in 2010, Gooden won his seat in the house when he pulled off his own, narrow upset of the then six-term incumbent Betty Brown. Gooden, a Terrell native, walked away with just 50.5% of the vote.

Another contentious race in the state house was for the District 6 seat. Incumbent Matt Schaefer walked away with a surprisingly wide margin of victory. Schaefer, who was also endorsed by Grassroots America, won 61% of the vote to challenger Skip Ogle’s 39%.

"We're obviously very respectful of the voters today, and whatever their decisions are, we're respectful of that decision,” Ogle said following the announcement.

“To God be the glory for these results,” Schaefer exclaimed at his watch party. “Where we go from here is to take forward the message of limited government and individual freedom that the voters in East Texas believe in."

Neither Schaefer nor Spitzer face a democratic opponent in November, so both are expected to win their seats in the general election as well.

But it was another Smith County race that had all eyes watching, as a fierce, Grassroots America-backed candidate questioned incumbent County Judge Joel Baker’s fiscal responsibility. Baker really led Furlow from the very beginning when early voting numbers were released, but it was a much narrower lead than the 57% to 43% final at the end of the night.

“It's easy to throw stones at the person who's been in office, and it's frustrating because certainly you want to be able to respond to those things,” Baker said following the win. “But we made a decision early on to run a clean campaign and focus on the proven record we've had over the last seven years, a very successful seven years.”

Judge Baker added that he is eager to begin focusing on some of the work ahead, noting explosive growth that continues in Smith County and the infrastructure upgrades that need to be addressed to keep up the pace.

While the Smith County District Attorney’s race was not necessarily one that was considered tight, it certainly had quite a bit of campaign feuding between the two candidates.

District Attorney Matt Bingham, who has been in office for about 10 years, handily beat his competitor, Austin Reeve Jackson, in the primary, securing approximately three quarters of the vote in the race. The bigger news in the race was an announcement he made to KLTV following his win.

"We have sixteen murders and capital murders right now, and they blessed me with the opportunity to continue for one more term and I plan at this point, in five years from now turn that over to someone else,” Bingham said.

In notable statewide races, both the Texas Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner seats, which are both largely considered as stepping stones for even big runs in the future, will have to be decided in runoff elections.

In the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt came out on top of five candidates in the race. Miller lead Merritt 35% to 21% in the Republican primary. Merritt was most recently a state representative based in Longview, before he was defeated in 2010. Both men are vying to fill the current commissioner, Palestine native Todd Staples’ spot. Staples placed third in his own bid in the 2014 primary for Lieutenant Governor.

In the Railroad Commissioner race, former State Representative for Deep East Texas, Wayne Christian, led the way in voters in the Republican primary. He bested his competitor, Ryan Sitton, 43% to 31%. Both candidates will also move forward and face each other once again in the runoff elections.

Races that require runoffs will take place on Tuesday, May 27. The general election takes place November 4.

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