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Abbott, O'Rourke to face off in Texas governor's race, NBC News projects

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed more than two dozen GOP candidates in the Texas primary, including Gov. Greg Abbott.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will face Democrat Beto O'Rourke this fall in his bid for a third term in November after the two won their respective primaries, NBC News projects.

Abbott, a Republican, faced several challengers on his right but was able to easily secure the nomination, thanks in part to the support of former President Donald Trump. O'Rourke, a former presidential candidate who lost a close Senate race in 2018, easily won his primary.

"Tonight, Republicans sent a message that they want to keep Texas the land of opportunity and prosperity for absolutely everybody — the prosperity that we have delivered over the past eight years," Abbott told supporters gathered at an event late Tuesday.

O’Rourke, addressing his own supporters Tuesday, offered himself as a candidate who could win over independents and Republicans.

"I want to be the governor for each and every single one of you," he said. "And I want to bring us together to do the big things that we are truly capable of once we get past the smallness and the cruelty and the divisiveness of this moment."

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking re-election, will finish with less than 50 percent of the vote and advance to a runoff against state Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Their race has attracted national attention after Paxton was endorsed by Trump. Bush — the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a past Trump rival — made efforts to court the former president's support.

In the Democratic primary for attorney general, Rochelle Garza will advance to a runoff, NBC News projects, with her opponent yet to be determined.

NBC News also projects incumbent Dan Patrick as the winner of the GOP primary for lieutenant governor. In the Democratic primary, accountant Mike Collier will advance to a runoff, his opponent not yet determined. And in the GOP primary for land commissioner, state Sen. Dawn Buckingham is headed to a runoff against a yet-to-be-determined rival.

Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas, of the state's 3rd congressional district, will advance to a runoff, NBC News projects, against Republican candidate Keith Self. Taylor was among nearly three-dozen House Republicans who voted in favor of creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Tuesday’s primary results will test the influence of Trump, who has issued more than 30 endorsements in the Lone Star State.

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One of Abbott’s GOP rivals, Don Huffines, conceded before all polling sites had closed and before a winner had been declared. In a statement from his campaign, Huffines “declared victory on forcing the incumbent governor to the right.” One example Huffines cited: Abbott's directive last week that a state agency investigate reports of minors undergoing “elective procedures for gender transitioning.”

“Though I will not be contesting the outcome of this election, I will not be going away,” said Huffines, a former state senator. “I will always fight to defend the God-given rights and liberties of Texans.”

On the Democratic side, the battle between centrist Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros in the 28th Congressional District is the key House race to watch. Cisneros lost to Cuellar in 2020, but this year’s rematch has been rocked by FBI raids on the incumbent’s home and campaign office as part of an  investigation into U.S. businessmen’s ties to Azerbaijan.

Cuellar, 66, has denied any wrongdoing. The race between him and Cisneros, 28, has played out on generational and ideological lines. National leaders in both parties are keeping an eye on the district, which leans Democratic but is one where Republicans are hopeful they can gain ground in the general election.

The race to succeed Bush as land commissioner has also caught Trump’s attention. The former president endorsed Buckingham, who has made the future of the Alamo, the famed battle site of the Texas Revolution, central to her campaign.

The Alamo, which is overseen by the land commissioner, is in the midst of a major redevelopment project and the subject of debate over how the revolution — and the role of slavery — should be remembered.