Republicans Retain Grip on Power in Austin But Democrats Make Gains in Texas House and Senate

After Tuesday’s election, there is no doubt that a blue wave crashed into a red wall in Texas but not without doing significant damage to the Republican Party’s grip on power at the Capitol in Austin. 

Amid energized opposition to President Donald Trump and excitement surrounding the well-funded candidacy of Rep. Beto O’Rourke against Sen. Ted Cruz, state-level Democrats made historic gains in the Texas House and were able to pick up two seats in the Texas Senate.

But despite the energy behind O’Rourke, he was narrowly defeated by Sen. Cruz and the GOP held the line in every statewide race including wins for Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, and others.

“Congratulations to our many Republican candidates for their victories,” said Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey after the results were in. “Texas voters recognize that conservative values work for their families, for more jobs and for a stronger economy over the last 15 with Republican leadership in Texas. “Statewide, Texans rebuffed the far-left liberal candidates whose values did not align with those of Texas,” Dickey said.

While leaning on the strength of rural Texas – which played a key role in putting Sen. Cruz, Gov. Abbott, and others over the top – Chairman Dickey acknowledged losses for Republicans in the state’s major metropolitan areas. 

“We know we have rebuilding to do in our urban areas. Our efforts for 2020 have already begun,” Dickey said. “We are fully motivated and we will elect more Republicans to our Congressional delegation and the Texas House in a short two years.”

In the Texas Senate, Empower Texans-backed Senators Konni Burton and Don Huffines, both from North Texas, lost to Democratic challengers Beverly Powell and Nathan Johnson respectively. 

Both winners are said to be moderate pro-business Democrats. And it is possible their victories will undercut the ability of Lt. Gov. Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer, to move legislation quickly through the upper chamber in the same manner he did in 2017 when nasty fights broke out about bathroom restrictions, school vouchers, property tax caps, and more.  

In the Texas House the following dozen Democrats won their races: 

HD 45 - Erin Zwiener

HD 47 - Vikki Goodwin

HD 52 - James Talarico

HD 65 - Michelle Beckley

HD 102 - Ana-Maria Ramos

HD 105 - Terry Meza

HD 113 - Rhetta Bowers

HD 114 - John Turner

HD 115 - Julie Johnson

HD 132 - Gina Calanni

HD 135 - Jon Rosenthal

HD 136 - John Bucy

Prior to last night’s election, Republicans dominated the Texas House with a near supermajority of 95 GOP members to 55 Democrats. Now, it’ll be 83 to 67, changing the partisan structure of the House right at the moment the members are set to choose a successor to retiring Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. 

“The voters of Texas sent a clear message. They want their state leaders to put progress before politics, they want their leaders to actually lead -- to do something about skyrocketing property taxes and getting the state to pay its fair share for public education,” said Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, who chairs the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

"This was a historic election year for House Democrats and the HDCC as we worked to support candidates in a total of 24 House districts across the state," Blanco said. "Democrats have not seen gains like this in 3 decades." 

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