Rick Kennedy, an Austin software engineer, won the Democratic primary election in Texas’ 17th Congressional District on Tuesday night, snagging 62 percent of the vote over Dale Mantey, of Rockdale.

Kennedy will face U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, in a November midterm election. Flores is seeking a fifth, two-year term representing the area encompassing Waco, College Station and north Austin.

Kennedy said he felt “relief, a little bit of pride and a lot of gratitude for the folks who voted for me, who put their faith and their trust in me. (We have) almost an immediate turnaround to look forward to the next 245 days to the general election and how we’re going to start approaching that.”

He had received more than 12,100 votes at press time with more than 95 percent of precincts reporting, topping Mantey’s more than 7,200 votes.

The Democratic primary contest in District 17 was the first in more than a generation. Kennedy centered his campaign on protection of health care programs and the bridging of a polarized Congress.

A $50,100 loan propelled Kennedy’s campaign, which spent more than $39,000 since September. Mantey’s campaign raised more than $14,000 in contributions, including $5,250 of his own money. Kennedy raised $7,480 in contributions.

“We fought a hard race,” Mantey said. “We had a lot of supporters do a lot of great things. We raised so many issues that have been ignored by Bill Flores, (Sen.) Ted Cruz, (Gov.) Greg Abbott and the Republican Party. We’ve raised those issues and brought them to the forefront.

“We’re going to keep fighting. The blue wave is still hitting. You don’t leave the blue wave just because you didn’t win one election.”

Almost 19,000 Democrats had voted in the race as of press time. Bill Matta, unopposed in the 2016 race, gathered 27,639 votes two years ago, when presidential primary contests boosted turnout.

Kennedy moved into the 17th district weeks ago, from Round Rock to Austin. He now looks to become the first Democrat in the seat since Chet Edwards, who lost to Flores in 2010 after a 20 years in the position.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

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