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The runoff in Texas left Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales, speaker of the state’s Republican House, in the middle of a party feud

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas is looking to save his job Tuesday in a Republican Party primary that has highlighted divisions within the party.

Gonzales, who has clashed with some of his far-right colleagues in Washington and received a reprimand from the state party, is in a race against Brandon Herrera, a gun rights YouTube creator with more than 3 million followers.

Speaker of the Texas House Dad Phelan also faces a tough challenge that could see him removed from his powerful seat, upending the Republican-controlled Legislature. Phelan angered conservatives for leading the 2023 impeachment of state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was later acquitted in a Senate trial and then sought to remove those who voted against him.

A loss of Gonzales, his supporters warn, would give Democrats an opening to flip a traditionally moderate district in November, while a change in Texas House leadership could push the state’s policymaking even further to the right.

Here’s a look at the major primary drains in Texas:

A BIG FIGHT IN A BIG DISTRICT

Gonzales represents a sprawling district that covers about 800 miles (nearly 1,300 kilometers) of the Texas-Mexico border.

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He was first elected in 2020 and easily won again in 2022, but the state’s Republican Party chastised him for a voting record that highlighted his independent streak. That included support for gay marriage protections and new gun safety laws after the 2022 Uvalde school shooting in his district that left 21 people dead.

Gonzales has also clashed with some far-right Republicans, calling them “sons of bitches.”

Herrera, a gun manufacturer and gun rights activist, came in second with nearly 25% of the vote in a five-way primary in March to force the runoff. Gonzales came first with 45%.

Gonzales has the support of some key Republicans who may be wary of unseating an incumbent president from a seemingly safe seat. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson attended a fundraiser for Gonzales, and Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed him. Herrera’s support of the far right included a campaign appearance with Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

The winner will face Democrat Santos Limon in November.

Only one other incumbent representative in the House of Representatives has been defeated this year: Republican Rep. Jerry Carl of Alabama, who lost an unusual primary to Rep. Barry Moore after the state was forced to redraw congressional districts.

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WHO OWNS THE TEXAS HOUSE?

Normally, reelection would be a shot in the arm for a speaker whose Republican majority has passed some of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws, vastly expanded gun rights, backed Abbott’s highly visible anti-immigration platforms and supported the LGBTQ+ rights have been restricted.

Still, Phelan ended up in a second round with oil and gas consultant David Covey. Not only that, Phelan came in second in the March primary, meaning he still has ground to make up on Tuesday. The winner will have no Democratic challenger in November.

A Phelan loss would mark the start of a new round of campaigning for the speakership, which is chosen from state House members.

TRUMP TIRES

Katrina Pierson, former spokeswoman for former President Donald Trump, is running against incumbent Justin Holland for his state House seat in suburban Dallas.

Holland was among the Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Paxton. He also voted to raise the age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21, and voted against Abbott’s plan to direct public education money to private schools.

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CHALLENGING CUELLAR

Republicans are also deciding who will take on Henry Cuellar in November, a longtime Democratic congressman who, along with his wife, was indicted this spring on federal bribery, money laundering and fraud charges. He has said he is innocent; three employees have pleaded guilty in related investigations.

Jay Furman, a retired Navy veteran, and rancher and businessman Lazaro Garza are vying for the nomination to challenge Cuellar in the South Texas district he has held since 2005. Both have campaigned for tighter border security and immigration restrictions.

There’s also another Cuellar on the ballot: Rosie Cuellar, his sister, is running against Cecilia Castellano in the Democratic runoff for a state House seat in South Texas. The March primary was held before Henry Cuellar was indicted, and it is unclear whether his legal troubles will impact her campaign.

The winner will advance to the November general election against Republican Don McLaughlin, who was mayor of Uvalde when the school shooting occurred.

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