The day we thought, or perhaps hoped, would never come has arrived. Here's how it unfolded.
1:40 a.m. – Signing off.
Andrea, here. Signing off. Trump is about to take the stage in New York, and Clinton has conceded. I’ll be writing about this for my December column.
In the meantime: If you’re sleeping well tonight, you shouldn’t be.
1:37 a.m. – The AP has called it for Trump.
Here’s Forrest, with a silver-like lining for Texas:
This will get lost in the whole President Trump thing, but Hillary did relatively well in Texas, especially in urban counties — if, of course, you can call losing by large single digits (probably around 8 or 9 percentage points) a good outcome.
In 2012, Obama lost to Romney in Texas. He lost to McCain in 2008 by 12. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate kept it closer was Bill Clinton in 1996.
In major urban counties, Hillary posted some impressive spreads. In Harris County, she won by 12 percentage points. Obama barely bested Romney in Houston in 2012. In Dallas County, Hillary won 61-35, significantly better than Obama’s 57-42 spread in 2012.
She won Travis County 66 percent to 27 percent. That’s not surprising given Austin’s liberal pedigree but in 2012 Obama’s margin was 60 percent to 36 percent.
As Chris Hooks pointed out earlier, the Trump triumph was tempered at the Harris County GOP party because of how poorly Republican did there. (Indeed, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s son, a Republican district judge, lost to his Democratic challenger in Houston.)
What happened here? Did the much-vaunted Latino vote finally break through? Was Trump so repugnant that it brought new voters to the polls? Was Republican turnout dampened?
These are not just academic questions. If there’s a path to a purple or blue Texas, the path leads through Texas’ cities and inner suburbs. What we saw tonight may have been a fluke — just a warble in this weird and cacophonous election — or maybe the makings of a foundation that can be built on.
12:55 a.m. – Dispatch from the Dan Patrick party.
Here’s Chris, from Houston:
Dan Patrick was all business as he climbed the stage at the Harris County GOP’s watch party, an affair that unfolded in a florescent-lit concrete box that felt a bit like a fallout shelter. There was an empty box of Franzia in the back and a bottle of Trump Vodka, empty too, but while the crowd was celebratory — cheering each new state projection, and once breaking into a chant of “build the wall” — it wasn’t as jubilant as you might think. Attendees seemed as baffled as everyone else by what was happening on screen.
In part, that might have been because Republicans got walloped in Harris County, by some 12 points as of midnight. That’s a problem, Patrick told the crowd. “We are a battleground county in a crimson red state.” The county party’s candidates, who he saluted, had mostly flopped.
But there was plenty to cheer when it came to the night’s main event. Patrick said he had called it. “I was on Fox last week and I told Neil Cavuto that I thought Trump would win Texas by 8 to 12 points. And right now he’s up by 8,” he said to cheers. “It was very important that Trump had a good margin of victory in Texas because otherwise the Democrats would say, ‘A-ha, we’re going to turn this state blue, or purple’. And they’re not going to turn this state blue in 2018, or now.” (Of course, 2018 is the year of his re-election or possible elevation to some higher office.)
“I also told Neil Cavuto that Trump would win Florida. It looks really good. That he would win North Carolina. He’s up by 5. That he would win Ohio, they’ve already given him Ohio. He is probably within one or two states of winning the presidency,” Patrick said. “He’s got a chance at having the upset of all upsets in political history.”
Patrick seemed energized, almost frenzied. “You are what our party’s about,” he told the crowd of tipsy Republicans in Make America Great Again hats. Behind him, a projection screen shows Fox calling North Carolina for Trump. He exhorted: “That’s the state he needed! And he won it easily! Great night! What a great night!”
Earlier this year, Patrick ditched his former buddy Ted Cruz for Trump. It looked like a bad move, until tonight. Patrick was a Trumpist before Trump was cool — a nationalist/populist with authoritarian overtones. The risk for the state now is that Patrick takes the election as a sign to dive ever-deeper into it.
12:40 a.m – Oh yes, we’re still here.
Forrest with a look at Texas’ closer races:
Democrats were hoping to pick up six or so seats in the Texas House, to whittle away at the Republican majority (the GOP holds 99 of 150 seats in the House). With most of the votes tallied, it looks like Democrats will pick up four seats, two in Bexar County, one in Houston and one in the Metroplex. Victoria Neave looks to have narrowly bested Representative Kenneth Sheets of Mesquite. Democrat Mary Ann Perez, who served a term from 2013 to 2015 in Houston’s House District 144, handily beat Republican Representative Gilbert Peña 60-40. In San Antonio, two Democrats, Philip Cortez and Tomas Uresti, overcame some of their own weaknesses to knock off Republican incumbents Rick Galindo and John Lujan, respectively.
This is hardly a watershed. Republicans maintain an enormous edge in Texas, controlling every non-judicial statewide office and enjoying huge majorities in the state Senate and House. Still, in a bleak night for Democrats this is one small silver lining.
12:25 a.m. – Urban centers still strong for Dems in Texas, ish.
11:55 p.m. – On the road to ole’ San Antone …
Remember that Bexar County business that Chris covered? Well, the Dem won.
11:45 p.m. – Where we’re at on close-ish races in Texas.
11:40 p.m. – Harris County goes Dem for district attorney.
11:08 p.m. – And in North Texas …
11:02 p.m. – And in West Texas …
10:50 p.m. – Wayne Christian, Railroad Commissioner.
Wayne Christian has declared victory in the Railroad Commission race. As of 10:30 pm, he has a 14 percent lead over Grady Yarbrough, the Democratic candidate. Libertarian candidate Mark Miller has five percent of the vote.
Christian told the San Antonio Business Journal that the oil and gas company Apache’s discovery of a large oilfield in West Texas will help Texas fight the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ hold over energy markets.
“Apache’s discovery is about to become the next Saudi Arabia,” he said.
10:48 p.m. – Austin has a new sheriff.
Sally Hernandez is officially the Travis County sheriff. The election could be a big win for immigration advocates if she follows through on her promise to stop honoring ICE detainers — requests that ICE sends to local jails to extend detention of immigrants until immigration officials can arrive to deport them. Hernandez has said these detainers constitute an “unwarranted delay of an individual’s release [that] is inconsistent with many shared Travis County values.”
10:38 p.m. – Well, that’s cute.
10:25 p.m. – Priorities at Dem-friendly Scholz Garten in Austin.
10:10 p.m. – Florida goes to Trump.
Patrick has a video from the Harris County GOP party. Meanwhile, in Austin … the Democrats at Scholz, from Jen:
9:37 p.m. – Air biscuits hiatus.
9:30 p.m. – What’s happening in that Railroad Commission nail-biter, lol?
9:10 p.m. – Guys. Guys?
9:03 p.m. – Scenes from Austin, Houston.
And Jen’s in downtown Austin at the Driskill Hotel, where the Dems are queuing.
9:00 p.m. – Sure, why not.
How about an educational YouTube video?
8:45 p.m. – Welp.
8:15 p.m. – How are Texas Dems faring?
With the big caveat that it is still early, etc etc, let’s check in with how Texas Democrats are doing tonight compared to my three metrics for success.
Are the Democrats hitting their marks?
No: With about 4.4 million votes counted in Texas, Trump is leading 53 percent to 43 percent. So Hillary is behind by about 10 percentage points. So she’s trailing a bit.
No: Right now — again it’s very early — Democrats are leading in four of the eight or so competitive Texas House districts. But all the races are close. In DFW’s HD 105, Democratic challenger Terry Meza leads Republican state representative Rodney Anderson by only a 1,000 votes with just over 34,000 votes counted. So, too close to call, as they say over at CNN.
No: With mostly just early votes counted — see above: it’s early — Republican Congressman Will Hurd is leading Democrat Pete Gallego in West Texas’ sprawling Congressional District 23, the only competitive congresssional race of the 36 Texas district.
8:10 p.m. – Texas is leaning Trump, but the Valley sure isn’t.
And then there’s Houston:
7:47 p.m. – We do this for the lulz.
Patrick brings us a joke that only Texas Miracle listeners will understand. He’s also at the GOP party in Harris County, which is itself a different kind of humor.
And here’s Forrest:
In eight key Texas House races, where Democrats are hoping to make some inroads on the near-supermajority that Republicans enjoy, things are more or less evenly split at this point in the night. In early voting, Republican incumbents are ahead in three of the four Dallas-Forth Worth races.
In Harris County, Democratic challenger Mary Ann Perez is leading Republican incumbent Gilbert Pena 58-42 in a very Latino but low turnout district in Pasadena.
In Bexar County, two Democratic challengers lead their Republican incumbents by narrow margins.
Overall, it’s a mixed bag for Democrats at this point but there’s a lot of evening left.
7:30 p.m. – Updates as early numbers come in. Stay hydrated, y’all.
7:00 p.m. – Confusion in Houston.
Patrick reports that voters and poll workers in Houston are scrambling as locals try to vote at an early voting-only locale minutes before the polls close.
6:49 p.m. – Homeless Austinites weigh in.
Latonia Hill, a young black woman sitting next to Simmons, initially refused to talk with me, saying only, “I don’t vote.” But, as Simmons went on, she grew interested and chimed in.
“If I voted for someone, I’d vote for Clinton,” Hill said, “because she’s a woman and Trump’s a racist.”
Read the rest of his report here.
6:20 p.m. – Polls don’t appear to have been widely plagued by problems.
Laura’s been tracking polling problems, or a lack thereof, throughout the day. She writes:
In an election marred by “corrupt media,” “rigged voting machines” and disputed voter ID requirements, it seems voter problems are actually the least of Texas’ worries. Volunteers at the Texas Election Protection Coalition have responded to more than 1,400 such complaints so far, but for Texas, that makes for a reasonably calm election day.
Here are some of the things we’ve heard today:
Dallas County: A Grand Prairie polling location opened nearly an hour and a half late because an election judge was found dead in his home. Voting hours at the Betty Warmack Library have been extended to 9 p.m. And in West Dallas, officials are looking into potential mail-in ballot fraud.
Harris County: This morning, the Texas Civil Rights Project reported voter processing delays and long lines at several polling locations — namely, Fiesta Market on Kirby Drive and MacGregor Elementary School in Houston.
Common Cause Texas fielded calls regarding widespread poll location mix-ups.
“It appears the issue of Harris County posting incorrect poll site info for certain precincts was something that popped up at quite a few spots — we’re hoping for a lull in the calls coming in so we can try to tabulate exactly what that number is,” executive director Anthony Gutierrez said.
Hidalgo County: Inclimate weather knocked out the power at polls in precincts 13 and 107 this morning. The County Elections Department tweeted that voters would be given provisional ballots. The electricity came back on three hours later.
Waller County: The polling location at Prairie View A&M University still had the incorrect voter ID requirements posted a few yards from the corrected version. The misinformation was removed about an hour ago.
6:10 p.m. – How doth the Trump voter Trump? Chris Hooks counts the ways.
Writes Chris, who talked to Trump supporters in Cypress, near Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s home:
When you’re somebody who thinks about politics constantly, it can be easy to project that intensity of interest onto the general public — to think of most people as ideological actors who, even if not exceptionally knowledgeable, have given some thought to the set of policies and ideas they support.
But not all voters are wired that way — they pick candidates for reasons you can’t even imagine, or no reason at all. I was reminded of that at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, a polling location in leafy, suburban Cypress near Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s house.
Read the rest of his report here.
5:51 p.m. – We’ve opened the booze. The dog has not made her deadlines.
5:40 p.m. – Long lines as Waller County may elect first black sheriff.
Patrick’s talking to students in Waller County, which may elect its first black sheriff following the death of Prairie View alum Sandra Bland in 2015:
Decades ago, Prairie View students marched to defend their voting rights, accusing the mostly white county leadership of obstructing the student vote by limiting the number of polling places, locating polls far from campus, or limiting the hours for early voting. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Waller County is one of three Texas counties — along with Dallas and Harris — where it would be dispatching election monitors.
I caught no sign of those monitors at the student center — presumably, they keep a lower profile than the United Nations’ blue helmets — but did meet Morgan Jackson, the Student Government Association’s president pro tempore, who’d been part of an effort to get students registered to vote in Waller County. The student government organized voter registration drives, led a march to the campus polling place during a two-day early voting period last week, and held a block party to get students excited about voting today. In 2012, students turned out to vote for Barack Obama, she said, but this year Donald Trump has been fueling the turnout. “It’s because of Trump’s beliefs — that’s what’s getting us out there,” she said.
Read the rest of his report here.
5:00 p.m. – Have you seen these dudes?
Chris talked to a local candidate in Fort Bend who spotted a couple of guys waving “Blue Lives Matter” and Trump flags from their trucks revving around the polls. He reports:
When Fort Bend county judicial candidate Brian Middleton pulled up to the Four Corners Recreation Center north of Sugar Land, he said it was clear something was wrong. Two huge souped-up pickup trucks were patrolling the perimeter of the property, revving their engines. The first had a “Blue Lives Matter” flag hanging off the back, and the second was less subtle — two big Trump flags flying on either side, with a variety of Trump stickers and a sign, hanging in the back window, that read “Hillary is a Bitch.”
The two trucks made a lot of noise and then sped off. Poll workers told Middleton that the anonymous drivers had been doing it all day: Pull up, rev engines, leave. “I waited and came back and parked,” he said. Eventually the first truck returned. “I started taking pictures of him, he started racing his engine.”
“They’re clearly targeting the location because there’s a lot of immigrants here,” he said. Fort Bend, a traditionally Republican county, has seen explosive population growth in recent years, and it’s one of the state’s foremost melting pots. Four Corners, in particular, is in a neighborhood with high concentrations of Asian and African-American voters.
We’re keeping an eye on the story, so if you or someone you know has spotted these guys tooling around the polls, let us know.
4:25 p.m. – What’s at stake in Texas’ tightest race.
Here’s Melissa del Bosque with a look at what will be the race to watch in Texas tonight:
What’s bigger than 29 states, includes two time zones and is shaping up to be the costliest congressional race in Texas history? Congressional District 23, which stretches for 500 miles from San Antonio all the way to El Paso County.
It’s the only Texas congressional district in play today. And Democrat Pete Gallego, who lost to incumbent Republican Will Hurd last election, is fighting to reclaim the district.
The two candidates, and their supporters, have poured nearly $13 million into the race, making it the most expensive ever in Texas and among the country’s costliest.. And despite all the gerrymandering in Texas, it’s that rare race that could go either way. It’s also a predominantly Latino district, and both parties are desperate to win and show they’ve got the ear of the fast-growing Latino electorate.
Gallego has pitched Hurd, a former CIA agent, as being closely aligned with presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Hurd finally disavowed any support for Trump after the Access Hollywood video surfaced in October.)
Meanwhile, Hurd and the GOP are airing TV spots trying to cast the 54-year-old Gallego, of Alpine, as a career politician only in the race for his own gain. (For more, check out Naveena Sadisivam’s story on major issues at stake in Congressional District 23, including border security and the controversial Trans-Pecos pipeline.)
In the last eight years, not one incumbent has kept the seat for more than one term. Gallego and his supporters are hoping a surge of Clinton voters will mean a win tonight.
4:15 p.m. – Katy voters aren’t exactly trumpeting for Trump.
Chris finds voters in the deep-red Houston suburb who aren’t so down with the Donald:
Hillary voters, though fewer in number, were more willing to talk. At the high school I met three generations of the Patel family — a grandmother, husband and wife, and their infant. The Patels are the kinds of voters Democrats hope will one day flip Houston exurbs like Katy, situated at the intersection of Waller, Fort Bend and Harris counties. Ankit, a neurologist, said the election has been grueling to watch. “There’s been a lot of hate,” he said.
Nidhi, his wife, said the family didn’t vote in 2012 and 2014, but this year felt different. “That’s the reason we wanted to vote. The things that have been said, the way he said those things, made us want to come out.”
Read the rest of his report here.
3:40 p.m. – Presidio voters say far-flung politicians don’t get them.
Sasha talked with voters and poll workers in Presidio, the county that historically has the lowest turnout in Texas:
A yellow piece of paper taped to the door indicated that 56 people had voted. For the remote border community of 6,000, that’s pretty darn good.
“You better believe it,” said Maria Garcia, who has been working more than 20 years as a clerk in Presidio County, the county with the lowest voter turnout in the state. In 2012, just 36.16 percent of registered voters cast their ballot. But this is the best turnout she’s seen yet, Garcia said.
Read the rest of her report here.
3:15 p.m. – Del Valle voter: “I just don’t like Hillary personally.”
Our intern Gus spent the day talking to folks in mostly Latino, unincorporated Del Valle:
At the Del Valle Community Center, a small building surrounded by fields, I met Albert Dickey, an unemployed web developer. Dickey explained that the community center functioned in part as a food pantry. In fact, he had come from Austin to get food and, realizing that the building was a polling location, decided to vote there as well (Travis County voters may vote anywhere within the county).
“I usually vote Democrat, but I voted Trump this year,” Dickey said. “I just don’t like Hillary personally; in fact, I voted Trump and then all Democrats after him.”
Read the rest of his report here.
2:25 p.m. – Some voters in San Antonio don’t love their options.
Our multimedia editor Jen is traveling with Naveena today, taking photos and talking to San Antonians:
Outside the Oak Ridge Village Pool, lifelong Republican Carolyn Lay said it brought her “to tears that a man like Donald Trump” was on the ticket this year. Lay voted for Clinton, but flipped and voted Republican down-ballot.
For Lay, Trump is “a bully,” an “ugly American” and “an embarrassment.” Judging Trump both on his policies (“The wall is a silly idea”) and his temperament (“That’s so ugly for him to talk to [the other Republican nominees] that way”), Lay said she decided that Trump is unfit to lead the country. Lay said she has hope for the Republican Party and that it will survive Trump. And if Trump is elected president, she will still stand behind him, she said.
Read the rest of their report here.
1:45 p.m. – Handguns, homophobic slurs spotted around Houston area polls.
12:50 p.m. – Aggieland voters say they’re for Trump, if grudgingly.
Patrick’s talked to voters in Giddings, Brenham and Round Top. They’re for Trump… sort of.
At Brenham’s American Legion Hall Tuesday morning, high school volleyball coach Kathy Shedd told me the voting went smoothly enough, but despite the calm scene around the old stone building, she was afraid — afraid of how the rest of the country’s vote would shake out tonight, afraid for Donald Trump’s chances. “He is a man that likes to take care of business,” she told me, someone who’d stand up to the rest of the world. “I’ll feel protected with Donald Trump in office,” she said. Her team’s got a playoff game tonight, she said, so she’ll be doubly nervous hoping for big wins for Team Trump and the Burton High School Lady Panthers.
Read the rest of his dispatch here.
12: 27 p.m. – Wayne Christian most likely to take Railroad Commission seat.
Here’s Naveena, watching the Railroad Commission race:
One of the most powerful statewide positions up for grabs in Texas this election is a seat on the Railroad Commission. The highly coveted position has broad authority to oversee oil and gas regulation in the state. If you didn’t know that, it’s not entirely your fault.
The agency has nothing to do with railroads. Environmental and consumer advocates have been trying to get legislators to change the name for several years, but no luck so far. Commissioners are powerful, but voters often haven’t heard of the agency, or don’t know what it does and vote along party lines.
Or, as it happened this year, they pick a candidate with a name they recognize. In the March primaries, Grady Yarbrough — a retired school teacher whose last name bears a resemblance to Ralph Yarborough, the longtime U.S. senator, and Don Yarborough, who ran for governor in the 1960s — won the Democratic nomination over nine-term Fort Worth state Representative and widely-endorsed candidate Lon Burnam.
Either way, the Democratic candidate is likely to lose in the general election today. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat railroad commissioner since 1994, and the Republican candidate, Wayne Christian, has vastly outspent his opponents.
I’ll be following the election returns for the seat later this evening, but I expect Christian will win, most likely with a wide margin, and continue a trend of lax regulation and cozy relationships with the oil and gas industry.
11:40 a.m. – Voting confusion in Houston
Our intern Laura is following voting-related problems throughout the state. Here’s a kerfuffle in Houston:
Common Cause Texas has been fielding complaints and questions all morning, particularly about Precinct 649 in Harris County. According to executive director Anthony Gutierrez, the voters were originally sent to All Saints Lutheran Church in Stafford (the Houston Chronicle listed this location last week) and were redirected to several different places before making it to the correct polling location, Iglesia Episcopal Church, just a mile down the road. The problem has since been resolved, but Gutierrez hopes the confusion didn’t dissuade voters from participating.
11:15 a.m. – A dispatch from Aggieland
Patrick’s been wisecracking his way eastward. A highlight:
9:15 a.m. – Palate-cleanser
8:45 a.m. – Disenfranchisement (or not) in Presidio
Freelancer Sasha von Oldershausen is keeping an eye on West Texas, and brings us the story of Abraham Ornelas, an ex-offender who thought he’d lost the right to vote:
Abraham Ornelas will not cast a vote this Election Day. He didn’t know that he could.
Ornelas, a resident of Presidio, a border town of 6,000 people 60 miles south of Marfa, is a convicted felon. In 2008, Ornelas was convicted of aiding and abetting a drug offense (he helped his friend smuggle drugs across the border), and sentenced to 37 months in prison. He completed his sentence in 30 months, and fulfilled his five-year probation in just over two years, thanks to good behavior.
Read the rest here.
8:00 a.m. – Naveena’s off to San Antonio
Our energy and environment reporter Naveena, who’s keeping an eye on the Railroad Commission race, is off to San Antonio. Here’s what else she’s watching for:
I’ll be reporting from San Antonio today. I’ll primarily be trying to get a sense of how Republican voters in deep-red parts of Bexar County are feeling about Trump, whether Clinton supporters are feeling enthusiastic since the email shake-up and generally taking the pulse of Latino voters. I’m also hoping to talk to voters who don’t have a photo ID, but will be able to vote thanks to a federal appeals court ruling striking down Texas’ voter ID requirements. And, like a lot of other reporters in the state, I’ll be on the lookout for polling places advertising false voter ID laws.
7:45 a.m. – Rise and shine, y’all!
Good morning, people of these uncertain times! The Observer team has hit the road, fanning out across Texas to visit some of our highest and lowest turnout locales. Patrick Michels, Naveena Sadasivam, Jen Reel, Christopher Hooks, Gus Bova and Sasha von Oldershausen will be talking to voters and filing dispatches throughout the day, giving you all the information you need (or don’t) in order to shore up whatever outcome you desire (or don’t). Back here at our Austin headquarters, Forrest Wilder and Laura Thompson are on the statewide beat, and we’ll be keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook for the latest snark and maybe adding a little of our own, plus bringing you returns and analysis as the polls close this evening.
Andrea Grimes will be updating the live blog and monitoring our tip line all day, so shoot her an email if something goes awry.