Turnout across the state was historically high for this mid-term election. More than 8.3 million Texans cast ballots. By comparison, in the last mid-term election (2014), just over 4.6 million Texans voted. In the midst of that record-setting turnout, TREPAC- and RPAC-supported candidates—from both political parties—won an astounding 89% of their races.
The end result: Republicans still control every statewide office, including all 18 seats on the state Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals combined. They also have majorities in both legislative chambers at the state and federal levels. But … the Democrats managed to flip a significant number of seats to cut into those majorities: two congressional districts, two state senate districts, and 12 state house seats.
Democrats fared well on Courts of Appeals in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and Corpus Christi. In those areas, 32 Democrats won contested races and 20 Republican incumbent justices lost their seats. Dems also picked up county-level offices in several counties where they typically struggle in gubernatorial election years.
Even though he lost his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke received well over 4 million votes, the most ever for a Democrat in Texas (Hillary Clinton got about 3.88 million in 2016). He earned about 48.3% of the vote – the highest percentage for a Democrat since Paul Hobby’s 49.0% in 1998. The “O’Rourke Effect” was felt down the ballot, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez received 3.5 million votes, nearly doubling the votes Wendy Davis received in 2014.
All that said, even though O’Rourke did well in urban areas, this election serves as a reminder: Never forget how red rural Texas is.
This was the last election in Texas in which straight-ticket voting was an option. It’s hard to overstate the implications of straight-ticket voting, particularly in Dallas County. According to Texas Election Source (txelects.com), Democrats had at least a four-digit straight-party vote advantage in every House district in Dallas County except for HD 108, where straight-party Republican voters cast 133 more votes than the Democrats (The Republican advantage was nearly 6,000 votes in 2016).
The result: five of seven Dallas County Republican seats in the Texas House turned blue, with a sixth under recount.
There were a number of surprises. Probably the biggest was Republican Rep. Ron Simmons losing his seat in HD 65.
A few other races that raised eyebrows: Republican Reps. Matt Shaheen (50.27%) and Jeff Leach (51.13%) eking out victories in Collin County.
Also of note, Freedom Caucus leader Jonathan Stickland won his election, but with only 49.83% of the vote. The 10+% margin of victory in SD 16 (Republican Sen. Don Huffines losing to Dem Nathan Johnson) was pretty notable, as well.
On a larger scale, former Republican strongholds, like Tarrant County and Williamson County, both went for Beto O’Rourke. Not only did Williamson County go for O’Rourke, but Attorney General Ken Paxton lost by nearly a point countywide, as well. In fact, Congressional candidate MJ Hegar, who was challenging Congressman John Carter, won Williamson County by 1.5%, and Williamson County’s two seats in the Texas House both flipped from R to D. In Fort Bend County, all statewide races went to the Democrats.
The U.S. House will be under Democratic control in the 116th Congress. Texas Democrats picked up two seats, both in urban areas. In Houston, political newcomer and attorney Lizzie Fletcher defeated 9-term incumbent Republican John Culberson in Houston’s CD 7 and ex-NFL player and attorney Colin Allred defeated 11-term Republican incumbent Pete Sessions in Dallas-based CD 32.
Both of Texas’ U.S. senators remain Republican, and the composition of the 36-member Texas congressional delegation will be 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
Of note: Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar are the first Latinas elected to U.S. Congress from Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott was the top-performing Republican, earning 55.85% of the vote and easily winning re-election over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. However, down the ballot, Democrats cut into Republican advantages compared to 2014.
See chart below to compare 2014 to 2018 margins.
State legislative races
Two Democratic challengers defeated incumbent Republican senators, both in North Texas. However, after losing a historically Democratic seat in a September special election, the Democrats are only a net +1 from last session.
That means the Texas Senate will have 19 Republicans and 11 Democrats when the legislative session begins. One Senate seat, currently held by Congresswoman-elect Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), will be filled by special election. That district is heavily Democratic, so it’s anticipated there will be a 12th Democrat, but special elections are unpredictable, as evidenced by SD 19, which flipped from Democrat to Republican in September.
The SD 19 special election has become a particularly bitter pill for Texas Democrats. Had they been able to keep the seat, they would have come into the 86th Texas Legislature with enough votes to block legislation from making it to the floor of the Senate. Under current Senate rules, 19 senators must agree. Sen. Pete Flores’ surprise victory gives Republicans enough votes to push a partisan agenda if they stick together.
All that aside, the Texas Senate will eventually have six new members:
- SD 6 – vacant (special election in 2019)
- SD 8 – Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, who will succeed Congressman-elect Van Taylor
- SD 10 – Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth, who defeated Sen. Konni Burton
- SD 16 – Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, who defeated Sen. Don Huffines
- SD 19 – Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, who won a special election to replace former Sen. Carlos Uresti and has already been sworn in as senator
- SD 30 – Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, who defeated outgoing Sen. Craig Estes in the primary.
TAR thanks Sens. Burton, Huffines, Uresti, and Estes for their service to the state.
TAR looks forward to continuing our long and successful relationships with Sens. Garcia and Taylor in Washington, D.C.
The partisan makeup of the Texas House will likely be at 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, pending recounts in several House seats.
That means the Democrats have likely picked up 12 seats (8 incumbent losses, 4 open flips)
- HD 45 (open): Erin Zwiener defeated Ken Strange, 52%-48%
- HD 47: Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin lost to Austin REALTOR® Vikki Goodwin, 52%-48%
- HD 52 (open): James Talarico defeated Cynthia Flores, 53%-47%
- HD 65: Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Lewisville lost to Michelle Beckley, 51%-49%
- HD 102: Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas lost to Ana Maria Ramos, 53%-47%
- HD 105: Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie lost to Terry Meza, 55%-45%
- HD 113 (open): Rhetta Bowers defeated Jonathan Boos, 54%-46%
- HD 114 (open): John Turner defeated Lisa Luby Ryan, 56%-44%.
- HD 115: Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving lost to Julie Johnson, 57%-43%
- HD 132 (RECOUNT): Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy lost to Gina Calanni by 49 votes
- HD 135: Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston lost to Jon Rosenthal, 51%-48%
- HD 136: Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park lost to John Bucy, 53%-47%
For the 86th Texas Legislature, the Texas House will have 29 new faces (about 20% of the House). Coupled with 2016 results, that means 55 House members (36.7% of the body) will be in their first or second term.
Here are the new names by party (previous experience in the Texas House are denoted with an asterisk):
- HD 4 – Keith Bell, R- Forney
- HD 8 – Cody Harris, R-Palestine
- HD 13 – Ben Leman, R-Brenham
- HD 15 – Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands*
- HD 23 – Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville
- HD 37 – Alex Dominguez, D-Brownsville
- HD 45 – Erin Zweiner, D-Driftwood
- HD 46 – Sheryl Cole, D-Austin
- HD 47 – Vicki Goodwin, D-Austin
- HD 52 – James Talarico, D-Round Rock
- HD 54 – Brad Buckley, R-Killeen
- HD 62 – Reggie Smith, R-Sherman
- HD 65 – Michele Beckley, D-Carrollton
- HD 89 – Candy Noble, R-Lucas
- HD 102 – Ana Maria Ramos, D-Richardson
- HD 104 – Jessica Gonzalez, D-Dallas
- HD 105 – Thresa “Terry” Meza, D-Irving
- HD 106 – Jared Patterson, R-Frisco
- HD 109 – Carl Sherman, D-Desoto
- HD 113 – Rhetta Bowers, D-Rowlett
- HD 114 – John Turner, D-Dallas
- HD 115 – Julie Johnson, D-Dallas
- HD 116 – Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio*
- HD 118 – Leo Pacheco, D-San Antonio
- HD 121 – Steve Allison, R-Alamo Heights
- HD 126 – Sam Harless, R-Spring
- HD 132 – Gina Calanni, D–Katy
- HD 135 – Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston
- HD 136 – John Bucy, D-Cedar Park
TAR thanks the following outgoing state representatives for their service:
- HD 4 – Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell (won CD 5 election)
- HD 8 – Rep. Byron Cook, R- Corsicana (retired)
- HD 13 – Rep. Leighton Schubert, R-Caldwell (retired)
- HD 15 – Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands (retired, won race for Montgomery County Judge)
- HD 23 – Rep. Wayne Faircloth, R-Galveston (lost in primary)
- HD 37 – Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville (lost in primary runoff)
- HD 45 – Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs (lost in CD 21 primary)
- HD 46 – Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin (lost in primary)
- HD 47 – Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin (lost in general)
- HD 52 – Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock (retired)
- HD 54 – Rep. Scott Cosper, R-Killeen (lost in primary runoff)
- HD 62 – Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman (retired)
- HD 65 – Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Lewisville (lost in general)
- HD 89 – Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Plano (retired)
- HD 102 – Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas (lost in general)
- HD 104 – Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas (lost in primary)
- HD 105 – Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie (lost in general)
- HD 106 – Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco (won SD 31 election)
- HD 109 – Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Desoto (retired)
- HD 113 – Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale (lost in SD 2 primary)
- HD 114 – Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas (lost in primary)
- HD 115 – Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving (lost in general)
- HD 116 – Rep. Diana Arévalo, D-San Antonio (lost in primary)
- HD 118 – Rep. Tomas Uresti, D-San Antonio (lost in primary)
- HD 121 – Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio (retired)
- HD 126 – Rep. Kevin Roberts, R-Houston (lost in CD 2 primary runoff)
- HD 132 – Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy (lost in general, pending recount)
- HD 135 – Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston (lost in general)
- HD 136 – Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park (lost in general)