The race to replace Joe Barton in Congress is far from decided.
It's going to take two May 22 runoff elections — one for Republicans and another for Democrats — to determine which candidates will claim their party's nomination and move forward in the battle to represent the 6th Congressional District.
Republican Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector Ron Wright held on to the GOP lead with 45 percent of the vote, followed by J.K. "Jake" Ellzey, who drew 22 percent of the vote, with all the votes tallied.
As for Democrats, Jana Lynne Sanchez and Ruby Faye Woolridge were neck and neck, separated by only 19 votes. Each drew 37 percent of the vote.
To avoid a primary runoff, a candidate must claim 50 percent plus one vote.
Political observers were never surprised that this race became so crowded, drawing 11 Republicans and five Democrats, because few incumbents leave their posts in Washington, D.C.
This is the first time in more than three decades that Barton, R-Ennis, wasn't on the ballot seeking re-election.
"Increasingly, once members of Congress are elected, they stay there a long time," said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the UT Arlington. "Openings are rare.
"If this (job) is what you are shooting for, this might be the last moment of opportunity for 20 to 30 years."
At stake in this race is a two-year term that pays $174,000 a year representing a district that includes part of east and southwest Fort Worth, most of Arlington and Mansfield and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.
The winner of each primary will head to the Nov. 6 general election.
Barton — who came under fire last year for a nude photo shared online and private messages with sexual overtones with a female constituent — announced in November that he would not seek another term in office.
Here's a look at how the votes fell, according to complete but unofficial results from the Texas Secretary of State.
Wright, who once worked for Barton, led with 45 percent of the vote. Ellzey, a retired Navy pilot and member of the Texas Veterans Commission, was the next highest vote getter, with 21 percent.
Wright said he was not surprised the race is heading to a runoff, but he's glad to be in it.
"It was always headed in that direction," he said. "When you have 11 people, it's hard to avoid it. ... We head on to the runoff election on May 22 and we are very confident we will prevail."
Also in the race, Mark Mitchell, a doctor/attorney/homebuilder and small business owner, picked up 5 percent; Ken Cope, a 64-year-old retired Army lieutenant colonel and retired aerospace executive from Arlington, garnered 8 percent; and Deborah Gagliardi, an engineer/contractor/architect from Arlington, accrued 4 percent.
Troy Ratterree, CEO of Compressed Air Systems, drew 4 percent; Kevin Harrison, a pastor and college founder, claimed 4 percent; Shannon Dubberly, an IT project manager, picked up 6 percent; and Shawn Dandridge, a network engineer, garnered 1 percent.
Thomas Dillingham, a technology consultant, accrued 1 percent; Mel Hassell drew less than 1 percent.
Here's a look at the vote total.
Woolridge, a longtime community activist and education counselor who ran for this seat two years ago, picked up 37 percent of the vote. Sanchez, a communications consultant who has captured the attention of Democrats across the country, also claimed 37 percent of the vote.
"I thought there would be an outright winner in this race, but when you've got five people in the race, it's difficult," said Woolridge, who talked about how grateful she was for all the volunteers who worked on her campaign. "People will still have to make a decision in May."
Sanchez said she was thrilled to be heading to a runoff for this post.
"A little over a year ago, I never thought about running for office," she said. "Now I'm in a runoff with a woman who has 30 years experience in running for office."
Sanchez stressed that she and her staff have knocked on doors, called and sent mailers to thousands of people in the district and will be reaching out again, leading up to the runoff.
"We know who our voters are," she said. "We know where our support is. We are going to be walking precincts every single day until May 22 until we talk to every single Democratic voter."
Levii R. Shocklee, a contracting officer for a private company who formerly served in the Navy, drew 6 percent, John W. Duncan, a compliance officer, accrued 14 percent; and Justin Snider, a locksmith and small business owner, garnered 7 percent.
Other Congressional races
Here's a look at some other local contested congressional primary races:
District 24: Incumbent U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, took a commanding lead, claiming 74 percent of the vote to challenger Jonathan Davidson's 26 percent. On the Democratic side, Jan McDowell took an early lead, with 52 percent. Edward "Todd" Allen claimed 21 percent, John Biggan drew 21 percent and Josh Imhof picked up 6 percent.
District 26: Incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Pilot Point, jumped out in front with 77 percent of the vote to challenger Veronica Birkenstock's 23 percent. On the Democratic side, Will Fisher drew 47 percent and Linsey Fagan claimed 53 percent.
District 33: Incumbent U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, claimed 71 percent of the vote to the 29 percent claimed by challenger Carlos Quintanilla.
The next step for candidates who make it to the runoff, political observers say, is to spend the next two months reaching out to primary voters and encouraging them to head back to the polls in May.
"Primary elections and runoffs are about turnout," said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. "Now it's all about having the organization and contact skills to get your voters to turn out.
"The people who do that the most effectively will win the nomination from their parties."
It just won't be easy, said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the UT Arlington.
"It is always a challenge to bring voters back, but very committed followers will show up again ... (at a) much lower overall turnout," he said.
Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley