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Republican Faces Runoff for House Seat

Associated Press

Republican Edd Hargett outpolled his Democratic opponents in a special election Saturday for northeast Texas’ 1st Congressional District seat, but was forced into a runoff when he failed to win 50% of the vote.

He will face Democrat Jim Chapman in a runoff in mid-July or early August for the House seat, which has been held by Democrats for more than a century.

With all precincts counted, Hargett had 29,814 votes, or 42.2%. Chapman, the Hopkins County district attorney, had 21,370 votes, or 30.25%.

Other Vote Totals

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Former Democratic state Rep. Sam Russell was third, with 13,099 votes, or 18.52%. State Rep. Jim McWilliams had 3,410 votes, or 4.8%. Former state Treasurer Warren G. Harding, retired businessman Carl Brown and independent candidate Fred Wieder each had less than 4% of the vote.

The special election was called after Democratic Rep. Sam B. Hall Jr. was appointed a federal judge. It was held despite Justice Department objections that the date had not been “pre-cleared” in accordance with provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Participants said the race took on even greater significance than who will represent the district’s 20 counties. A victory for the GOP, they said, would show that traditionally Democratic Texas is indeed swinging toward the Republican Party.

But Chapman said he thought the vote was an indication that the Democratic base is not eroding.

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“There’s no greater indication (of Democratic strength), I think, than what’s been demonstrated today,” Chapman said.

“If a candidate can only get 41% of the vote and outspend the other candidates 2-to-1, that indicates that Texas is still Democratic country.”

The district stretches from Paris near the Oklahoma border to San Augustine in the southeast.

In a letter Thursday to Gov. Mark White, the Justice Department threatened legal action to block the election because the date was not “pre-cleared” with the department.

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White, who set the election date May 28, responded Friday with a letter saying his decision was not subject to federal review, and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Bob Slagle accused the Reagan Administration of “meddling.”


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