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Texas Republican wins seat of congressman who quit amid harassment claims

Republican Michael Cloud will become the newest member of Congress, after winning a Texas special election Saturday to replace a GOP congressman who resigned amid sexual harassment claims.

Cloud finished at the top of a crowded field that fought to represent the 27th District, a heavily conservative area along the Gulf Coast that President Donald Trump won by about 24 points in 2016.

With 89 percent of the vote tallied, Cloud was winning more than 54 percent of the vote, well above the majority he needed to avoid a runoff.

He ran as a Christian conservative and staunch supporter of Trump, backing his calls to build a border wall and adopting the president’s “drain the swamp” mantra. Cloud ran with endorsements from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and former congressman Ron Paul.

The 27th District seat once belonged to Republican Blake Farenthold, who stepped down in April after allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members. After initially promising to repay $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle a sexual harassment claim, Farenthold backed away from his pledge.

Cloud, a former Victoria County GOP chairman, will serve the remainder of Farenthold’s term, which expires in early January. He is also running for a full two-year term in November. Saturday’s outcome gives Cloud the advantage of incumbency in that contest.

Both parties were eying the outcome of Saturday’s vote for new clues about the mood of the electorate, with about four months left before the midterm elections. Trump’s unpopularity has raised the prospect of a Democratic takeover of Congress.

In other recent special elections, Democrats have claimed some surprising victories on conservative turf, alarming Republicans. The GOP was already bracing for a difficult year, since historically the president’s party has not done well in his first midterm elections.

Nine candidates appeared on Saturday’s ballot. There was no partisan primary ahead of the special election.

Along with Cloud, two other Republicans appeared on the ballot, including former Texas Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun, who has endorsed Cloud.

Three Democrats were on the ballot, including Eric Holguin, Cloud’s opponent in the November election, who was in second place with about a third of the vote.If he were to win in November, Holguin would be the first openly gay Hispanic man in Congress.

Two independents and a Libertarian candidate also competed in Saturday’s special election.

Democrats need to gain 23 seats in November to take control of the House, and the 27th District is not seen by nonpartisan analysts as competitive in the fall.

But the special election will alter the balance of power in the House this year, if only slightly. Republicans held a 235-to-193 advantage heading into the day.

Abbott set the special election in April. He said it was imperative to fill the seat quickly because the region was still recovering from Hurricane Harvey and depended heavily on representation in Congress.

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