Former Victoria County GOP chairman Michael Cloud clinched a major victory in the race to represent South Texas residents in Congress, according to unofficial election results available Tuesday evening.
The win in Tuesday’s runoff election means Cloud will continue onto to face a Democratic challenger in the November general election, which decides who will be elected to Congress. Unofficial election results showed Cloud won with 61 percent of the vote, while his challenger, Bech Bruun, had 39 percent as of 11 p.m.
Cloud spent the last several months campaigning against Bruun, the top vote winner in the March 6 Republican primary, in the race to represent the 27th Congressional district, which stretches across the Texas Gulf Coast around Corpus Christi and snakes north toward Bastrop County.
Bruun, a seasoned public servant, was former chairman of the Texas Water Development Board and once chief of staff for Republican Texas Rep. Todd Hunter.
Cloud, a small business owner, was a self-described grassroots candidate of the people. Now that Cloud won the Republican runoff election, it means he will face Eric Holguin, a Democrat from Corpus Christi, in the general election in November.
“Thank you for everything that you’ve done,” Cloud told supporters while celebrating his win Tuesday evening. “This would not have happened without the grassroots support.”
In Victoria, Cloud was surrounded by about four dozen people, including campaign staff, family and friends in an event room above Victoria County GOP headquarters as the election results rolled in. The congressional candidate’s campaign staffers high-fived each other and took photos as Cloud began to take the lead.
Early in the evening, Cloud’s three children drew on pieces of paper and played with a chess board while their father greeted smiling supporters and nervously checked election results. When the race was called, Cloud talked to supporters with his wife and recalled a moment nine months ago, when they told their children about his idea to run for Congress.
It was before his campaign was announced publicly when Cloud, his wife and their three children were sitting at a Sonic Drive-In, he said.
“We said, ‘This has to stay a secret for now — eventually we'll want everybody to know, but some people have asked your dad to consider running for Congress,’” said Cloud. “And we wanted to get their opinion because anyone running a campaign, it’s a family thing — there’s just no way around it.”
About 85 miles south of Victoria, Bruun dealt with the loss at his brother’s home in Corpus Christi — just a few doors down from the home where they grew up, he said. Bruun said he took the opportunity to spend the evening with his close family and three young children — time that’s been hard to come by in the last few months.
In a statement, Bruun congratulated his opponent on his win.
“I’d like to express a deeply sincere ‘thank you’ to everyone who has been so steadfast in their support of me and my family throughout this campaign,” Bruun said. “Congratulations to Michael, (his wife) Rosel, their family, and their hardworking volunteers. I wish him the best of luck in the upcoming elections.”
Although Tuesday’s election determined who will face a Democrat candidate vying for the congressional seat in November, this isn’t the last time Cloud and Bruun are expected to face each other.
On June 30, voters will be asked to decide from a field of nine candidates who are trying to serve temporarily in the empty congressional seat, which was held by Blake Farenthold until he resigned from Congress in April amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Cloud and Bruun are among the pool of candidates. However, Bruun told The Corpus Christi Caller-Times that he isn't going to "actively pursue" the special election.
If no single candidate wins more than half of all the votes in that special election, the top two vote winners will face off in a runoff election later this year.
In theory, that means that one candidate could win the special election and serve on a temporary basis before a different candidate is elected for a regular-length term in November.