With all but a few vote centers reporting Wednesday morning, Turner had 47% of the vote in unofficial returns to 28% for Buzbee. Turner was around 7,700 votes short of winning enough of the vote — over 50% — to avert an overtime round.
The runoff is set for Dec. 14.
Bill King, who narrowly lost to Turner in the 2015 mayoral runoff, came in third Tuesday with 14%, while City Councilman Dwight Boykins finished fourth with 6%. Turner faced 11 challengers but only a few seen as serious.
There was massive delay in results from Harris County, where the almost-complete numbers were not released until about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Still, the overall order did not change through the night and morning, as Turner's percentage hovered below 50% and Buzbee persisted as the clear runner-up.
Turner is fighting for a second-term leading Texas' biggest city and the fourth most populous in the country. Early Wednesday morning, with still many results uncounted, Turner thanked supporters for their work and added: "It made a difference – and we're not done yet."
A short time beforehand, Buzbee took the stage at his election night party wearing a camouflage jacket and gave a rambling speech expressing confidence that he would make the runoff.
The race was nonpartisan, though Turner, a former longtime Democratic state representative, dogged Buzbee over his past financial support for President Donald Trump, an unpopular figure in the city. Eschewing party labels, Buzbee presented himself as a political outsider determined to clean up city hall corruption. Along the way, Buzbee self-funded his campaign to the tune of $10 million.
Disclosure: Tony Buzbee and the Texas Secretary of State have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.