Boy howdy what a big, fat, ugly night for Texas down ballot Republicans.
Yes Sen. Ted Cruz won. But Beto O’Rourke got 48.29 percent of the vote, with 4,024,777 votes. So out of over 8 million votes cast, Beto got within 220,000 votes of beating Ted Cruz.
Getting that close in a non-presidential year should certainly give Texas Democrats something to be happy about.
And yes, there was no mystery in the fact that Gov. Greg Abbott would win reelection, with Democrat Lupe Valdez only receiving 42.47 percent of the vote, and Gov. Abbott receiving over 1,100,000 more votes. The closest other Statewide race for the Democrats was for attorney general, with Democrat Justin Nelson receiving 46.98 percent of the vote to come to within a little under 300,000 votes of beating Ken Paxton.
Now for the down-ballot stuff, where it gets better for the Dems. Of course, you have already heard that two heavily gerrymandered congressional districts flipped from Republican to Democrat. However, you may not have heard that in the Texas Senate, Senate Districts 10 and 16, flipped from Republican to Democrat. Senator Konni Burton from District 10 lost by over 10,000 votes. Sen. Don Huffines lost by over 23,000 votes. Neither of these races was on anyone’s radar of being a possible pick up for Democrats.
For the State House, the Democrats had a productive election. Conservative, anti-immigration activist Matt Rinaldi lost, as the Democrats flipped at least 12 seats from Republican to Democrat. That should give the Democrats more power in legislature, and could mean they have more influence in the all-important Speaker’s race.
I’m a lawyer, so let’s talk about Judges now. The Court of Appeals is divided into 14 geographic regions in Texas, numbered (not surprisingly) 1 through 14. Here in South Texas where I live, we have the 13th Court of Appeals, and Democrat Dori Contreras easily beat Republican Ernie Aliseda with 53.56 percent of the vote for the Chief Justice position. Dori won by more than 32,000 votes. It even appears that indicted Hidalgo County District Judge Rudy Delgado will win 13th Court of Appeals, Associate Justice, Place 2. So, Attorney General Ken Paxton wasn’t the only indicted official in Texas to win last night. Not sure what happens when Delgado shows up on January 1, 2019, and tries to get on the payroll.
The Third Court of Appeals is headquartered in Austin. Austin has always been known as a liberal Bastion, however there are enough other counties in the gerrymandered Third Court of Appeals to make it usually a Republican majority in non-presidential election years. Not this time. The Democrats flipped Third Court of Appeals Places 2, 3 and 5, and won the open Place 6. Democrats now have a majority on the 3rdCourt of Appeals, which is a lot bigger deal than you may think. You see, because the 3rdCourt of Appeal is headquartered in Austin, it is the appellate court that hears appeals relating to legislation passed by the Texas legislature, as well as actions by certain state officials. That’s HUGE, as they say. Of course, their decisions can be appealed to the all Republican Supreme Court, but they can’t appeal every single ruling. Thus, the newly Democratic Third Court of Appeals will have influence regarding interpretation and constitutionality of state statutes and legislation.
In the big cities, Republican judges were wiped out. In the Fifth Court of Appeals, headquartered in Dallas, the Democrats swept the court, winning all contested races. The Democrats won the Chief Justice Position, and Places 11 and 12, which were open seats. The Democrats flipped from Republican to Democrat Places 2, 5, 9, 10 and 13.
In Houston, rivers of blood came out of the respective Houston courthouses due to Republican slaughter. In the 1st Court of Civil Appeals headquartered in Houston, the Democrats won all contested Places, including Places 7 and 8, which were open, and flipped Places 2, 6 and 9, from Republican to Democrat. In the 14th Court of Civil Appeals, also headquartered in Houston, the Democrats had another sweep, flipping from Republican to Democrat Associate Judge Places 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8.
But the court of appeals were not the only benches where Republicans lost in the Bayou city. The Democrats won 36 district courts, and 25 county courts in Harris County, and swept all county elected offices, including County Judge!
Things didn’t look much better for the Republicans in Bexar County, either. The Democrats swept all of the seats on the Fourth Court of Appeals, flipping Place 2 from Republican to Democrat, and holding as Democrat Places 3, 4, 5 and 7. Democrats won all contested district and county courts.
Closer to home, Nueces County will see a new County judge. Barbara Canales Black (you may recall her unsuccessful campaign against Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa in state Senate District 20) won the County Judgeship, flipping that from Republican to Democrat. In addition, for the first time in a very long time, the Democrats will have a majority on the Nueces County Commissioner’s Court.
To say that Suburban counties are starting to trend Democrat appears to be correct. In Tarrant County, Beto received 49.89 percent of the vote, better than any Democrats done there in a very, very, very long time.
Hays County, in the Austin to San Antonio corridor, will have a new Democratic County Judge, flipping that from the Republicans. No big successes to talk about in north of Austin, in Williamson County, but it is important to note that Beto won the Williamson county with 50.8 percent of the vote.
All in all, Republicans running statewide did very well, but down ballot Republican suffered significant losses. Democrats expanded their representation in big cities, suburbia, and select local counties and we continue political realignment in this country. Beto’s 48.29 percent, statewide showing certainly gives Texas Democrats something to think about for 2020.