AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former White House physician and onetime pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs won the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat in Texas in an election that unfolded amid an alarming spread of the coronavirus.
Ronny Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, defeated agriculture advocate Josh Winegarner in a primary runoff Tuesday in the deeply red Texas Panhandle. Jackson will face Gus Trujillo, who won Tuesday’s Democratic nomination for the 13th congressional district in Texas, in the November general election.
Trump had endorsed Jackson’s campaign and he emerged from a crowded GOP field to replace retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry.
Jackson’s nomination to run the VA was derailed by allegations of drinking on the job and over-prescribing drugs. He withdrew from consideration for the VA post but denied accusations of wrongdoing. He returned to the White House medical office, retired from the Navy in 2019 and launched his bid for Congress.
Trump had said Jackson impressed him when the doctor gave a glowing report on the president’s physical health and cognitive well-being in 2018, following questions about Trump’s mental fitness for office. Jackson acknowledged the president could eat healthier to lose some weight, but joked that that he “has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”
Jackson was also the White House physician to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He is from Levelland, population of about 13,000, in the Texas Panhandle. He earned a marine biology degree from Texas A&M before graduating from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1995.
In the Democratic primary runoff for U.S. Senate Tuesday in Texas, MJ Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot who nearly won a House seat in 2018, won the party nomination of Sen. Royce West. Hegar will face an uphill battle against three-term GOP Sen. John Cornyn, who has a hefty stockpile of campaign money.
Tuesday’s runoff was originally scheduled for May, but Gov. Greg Abbott, like many governors, postponed the date as the virus began to take hold in the U.S. But Texas is in a much worse public health crisis now, with hospitalizations doubling every two weeks and infection rates soaring after the state embarked on one of the most aggressive reopenings in nation.