Election night obviously wasn’t a good night for Democrats around the country, and Texas was no exception.
The Democratic nominee for Governor, Bill White, lost to the incumbent, Gov. Rick Perry by around 13 percent of the vote. I mentioned in FrumForum’s pre-election symposium that if Perry won by over 10 percent, you could expect to hear a lot more chatter about Perry running for the GOP nomination for President. Well, expect more chatter.
Of the U.S. Congressional races that occurred in Texas tonight, one that has received a lot of attention is the race between Congressman Ciro Rodriguez and his Republican challenger, Francisco Canseco. This district (TX-23) stretches from San Antonio to El Paso was formerly represented by a Latino Republican, Henry Bonilla. The GOP had high hopes of winning this race, because victory would give them a marquee figure to help make inroads into the Hispanic community in Texas, a group which has been drifting away from the GOP in recent years. The GOP may have that figure now, as Canseco won. This wasn’t the only tough loss for Texas Democrats in U.S. Congressional races. This election also saw the defeat of Chet Edwards, a veteran Democratic congressman who was able to maintain his seat for years in an otherwise Republican district.
Things didn’t go well for the Democrats with respect to the Texas House of Representatives either. The Democrats have been talking about retaking the Texas House for a couple of election cycles, and were steadily moving towards such a result. Before this election, the Republicans had a narrow majority in the Texas House. As of now, it looks like the Republicans have picked up 22 seats and the Democrats have lost the gains they made in recent election cycles. The Texas Senate hasn’t been considered to be up for grabs for some time now (the GOP majority there is a strong one), so there’s not much to discuss there.
The big takeaway for tonight is that the GOP is now in the catbird position with respect to the next round of redistricting in Texas and the goal to make Texas a purple state seems much more distant than it did in 2008. The Democratic Party runs well in the main urban areas of Texas (Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio) and in heavily Latino South Texas, but the Republican Party’s voting majorities in the other parts of this vast state still overwhelm such Democratic strongholds. Paul Burka, a prominent political reporter in Texas, pointed out before the election that it appeared that the GOP enjoys an approximate 12 percentage point advantage over the Democrats in statewide voting. This observation appears to have held up, and while admittedly this was a pro-GOP year nationally, it shows just how far the Democrats have to go in Texas. As of today, it appears that the Republican Party has created a strong governing majority in Texas. The challenge for Texas Democrats now is to see how they can overcome this, both in terms of policy and messaging, if they want to be a strong statewide party rather than a collection of strong municipal and county parties scattered across a largely GOP state.