We’re updating readers all Election Day with analysis, results and on-the-ground coverage from reporters throughout Texas.
12:20 a.m., Texas Berniecrats Lose En Masse
So here’s a list of Bernie Sanders-style Democrats who ran in Texas this year. Every candidate was endorsed by Our Revolution Texas; some were also endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The two leftist groups took divergent paths over the course of the year: The national DSA ultimately endorsed only one Texas candidate, a Harris County judicial candidate, and Texas chapters made very few endorsements, mostly in hyper-local races. Our Revolution, by contrast, seemingly expanded its criteria at some point, endorsing statewide candidates Mike Collier and Justin Nelson — neither were exactly progressive firebrands. Both lost.
The list below includes only candidates at the state House level and above; it is also a litany of woes. Two of the 29 candidates below prevailed. A bright spot: Erin Zwiener won her state House race in the Hill Country to the south of Austin. There were some local victories, including Harris County misdemeanor court judge candidate Franklin Bynum, and a couple of Corpus Christi City Council candidates who appear to have made it into runoffs. Small consolation for the leftist left, given the following barrage of L’s:
- Derrick Crowe — CD 21 — Primary Loss
- Brent Beal — CD 1 — Primary Loss
- Ali Khorasani — CD 2 — Primary Loss
- Dale Mantey — CD 17 — Primary Loss
- Steve Brown — CD 22 — Primary Loss
- Hector Morales — CD 29 —Primary Loss
- Candace Aylor — HD 47 — Primary Loss
- Dylan Forbis — HD 29 — Primary Loss
- Rick Trevino — CD 23 — Runoff Loss
- Mary Street Wilson — CD 21 —Runoff Loss
- Chris Perri — CD 25 — Runoff Loss
- Christine Mann — CD 31 — Runoff Loss
- Laura Moser — CD 7 — Runoff Loss
- José “Chito” Vela — HD 46 — Runoff Loss
- Beto O’Rourke — U.S. Senate — Loss
- Linsey Fagan — CD 26 — Loss
- Eric Holguin — CD 27 — Loss
- Adrienne Bell — CD 14 — Loss
- Mike Siegel — CD 10 — Loss
- Veronica Escobar — CD 16 — Won
- Kim Olson — Agricultural Commissioner — Loss
- Mike Collier — Lieutenant Governor — Loss
- Justin Nelson — Attorney General — Loss
- Kevin Lopez — SD 30 — Loss
- Steven Kling — SD 25 — Loss
- Alec Johnson — HD 11 — Loss
- Erin Zwiener — HD 45 — Won
- Andrew Morris — HD 64 — Loss
- Samantha Carrillo — HD 84 — Loss
12 a.m., Beto O’Rourke: ‘I’m as Hopeful as I’ve Ever Been in My Life’
11:45 p.m., The #FireStanStanart Campaign Finally Wins, Knocking Off the Much-Maligned GOP Harris County Clerk
The theme of the night for Texas Democrats, if there is one, might be frustration at the top of the ballot while making great strides at the bottom. It should be noted that Texans have seen the end of one of the Texas Democratic Party’s great under-the-radar bête noires: Harris County County Clerk Stan Stanart.
11 p.m., Empower Texans Loses Big on Election Night
The trend of Empower Texans’ influence at the Texas Capitol dwindling continues. A list of the far-right group’s big-dollar races.
- Konni Burton ($360K) — SD 10 — Loss
- Matt Rinaldi ($200K) — HD 115 — Loss
- Don Huffines ($150K) — SD 16 — Loss
- Jonathan Boos ($130K) — HD 113 — Loss
- Deanna Maria Metzger ($110K) HD 107 — Loss
- Dan Patrick ($75K) — Lieutenant Governor — Win
- Michael Toth ($50K)— 3rd Court of Appeals — Loss
- Matt Shaheen ($45K) — HD 66 — ?
- Lisa Luby Ryan ($10K) — HD 114 — Loss
- Steve Toth ($5K) — HD 15 — Win
- James Pikl ($5K) — 5th Court of Appeals – Loss
10:30 p.m., Beto Tried to Win a Texas That Doesn’t Quite Exist Yet
“The people of Texas are not a small, paranoid people. We are big, bold, ambitious and focused on the future,” Beto O’Rourke said last Friday, the final day of early voting, after Cruz accused him of funding the migrant caravan with campaign money. That may be true of the Texas people. But it’s not quite the reality of the majority of Texas voters.
As I’m writing this, Ted Cruz is ahead by more than 3 percentage points and several outlets have called it in his favor. That, to be clear, is an astounding result for O’Rourke, who ran the closest Democratic campaign in Texas in decades and helped Democrats pick up several seats down-ballot. He tapped into something that nobody has been able to do before, and in running the race that he ran he undeniably set the table for Democrats to compete statewide in 2020 in a very real way. Putting Texas even somewhat in play has changed the national landscape.
10 p.m., Say Adiós to Matt Rinaldi, the Texas Lawmaker Who Called ICE to Report Latino Protesters
State Representative Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, is good at calling ICE. He’s also good at picking fights with Latino colleagues. But the far-right legislator is no longer, it seems, so good at winning elections.
With all of the early vote in plus more than half of precincts reporting, Rinaldi’s opponent Julie Johnson is up by 12 points. The odds of Rinaldi coming back from that are virtually nil, so the Observer is calling it for Johnson.
9:30 p.m., Congressman Pete Sessions Loses to Former NFL Player Colin Allred
9 p.m., Harris County Is Blue
Harris County has long been the holy grail for Texas Democrats. If Democrats could lock down Greater Houston like Dallas and Austin, then the party would have a foundation to crawl back into relevancy. While the county went for Hillary Clinton by 12 in 2016, Dems had yet to prove they could dominate in a midterm year. No longer.
In early voting, the county went for Beto O’Rourke by 15 points — 3 more than Clinton ultimately got. And down-ballot Republicans seem to be staring down their own personal Ragnarok. Fifteen Republican misdemeanor court judges are currently down by a margin of about 10 — a good sign for bail reformers who could use sympathetic judges in those seats. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, of Soros-baiting fame, is trailing by a similar margin.
One survivor of the probable bloodbath might be County Judge Ed Emmett, a famously moderate administrator of the county’s duties. Emmett’s presently locked in a dead heat with political newcomer Lina Hidalgo.
Of course, extraordinary turnout helped lift candidates’ prospects. That’s not necessarily repeatable, but Dems now have a much firmer grasp on the Bayou City.
8:55 p.m., Dems Could Pick up Two State Senate Seats. They Still Need a Third to Curb Dan Patrick’s Power Next Session
It looks like the blue wave could unseat two Republican state senators in the Metroplex. In Dallas, incumbent state Senator Don Huffines is currently losing hard to Democrat challenger Nathan Johnson, with 45 percent to Johnson’s 55. Next door in conservative Tarrant County, the margin is smaller, but incumbent Republican state Senator Konni Burton is now behind Democratic challenger Beverly Powell by a little more than two points.
Still, to crack Dan Patrick’s supermajority in the Texas Senate next session, Democrats need to pick up three seats. Houston-area Republican Joan Huffman had been the third target, but early totals have challenger Rita Lucido behind by 47 to 52. One surprising opportunity for Dems: Ken Paxton’s old senate seat, which is rooted in Collin County. His wife, Angela Paxton, looked like a surefire shoe-in, but as of now, she’s only ahead with 51 percent to challenger Mark Phariss’ 49. Maybe the Paxton name is starting to lose its sheen in Collin County after all…
8:45 p.m., Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia Make History as First Texas Latinas Elected to Congress
In the nearly 175 years since Texas joined the union, the state has sent more 300 representatives to Congress, but none have been Latina — until now. As of 8:30 p.m., campaigns for El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and Texas state Senator Sylvia Garcia have declared wins in congressional districts 16 and 29 respectively.
“We’re living in an era under the Trump administration that is targeting communities like mine,” said Escobar. “During such a tumultuous time I think it’s beautiful that it’s the border that’s making history.”
8:15 p.m., Democrats Performing Better than Expected in Dallas-Fort Worth
Democratic candidates have taken leads in early voting returns in several North Texas congressional, statewide and state legislative seats that were thought to be competitive but lean Republican.
State Senator Don Huffines is trailing Democrat Nathan Johnson by 9 points, too.
State Representative Matt Rinaldi, whose seat progressives targeted after he reported Latino protesters to an ICE hotline during floor debate in the 2017 legislative session, is trailing by 12 points in Dallas County to Democrat Julie Johnson. State Representative Victoria Neave is leading her Republican challenger by a large margin. Anti-vaccine GOP candidate Lisa Luby Ryan is trailing Democrat John Turner by a dozen points.
But the biggest surprise in the Metroplex is Tarrant County, the largest red county in the country. Beto O’Rourke is virtually tied with Ted Cruz in the early voting results. Jana Lynne Sanchez, a Democrat running in formerly Republican-held Congressional District 6, which includes parts of Tarrant County, is leading by 4 percent there.
Also in Tarrant County, Attorney General Ken Paxton, from neighboring Collin County, is leading by about 2 percentage points and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is leading by about 4 points in early voting. That’s bad news for Republicans.
8 p.m., Blue Wave Could Sink Felony-Indicted AG Ken Paxton
Felony-indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton appears to be neck and neck with challenger Justin Nelson, making this a way tighter race than many had thought. In fact, this now looks like the closest statewide race, next to the Beto/Cruz contest. So far, Paxton’s just slightly behind Nelson with 48.7 percent to Nelson’s 49 statewide. Republicans didn’t even run a primary challenger against Paxton, who’s still awaiting trial on three felony indictments.
7:15 p.m., Early Voting Totals Look Good for Beto
Beto O’Rourke is performing well in early voting returns in Texas, both in large urban counties and in some counties that Republicans typically carry. It seems like a good start for Beto. Here are the numbers.
In Dallas County, 66 percent Beto and 33 percent for Ted Cruz
In Denton County, Cruz leads with 55 percent of the vote.
In Bexar County, Beto leads 58 percent to 40 percent for Cruz.
In Travis County, Beto leads with 76 percent to 23 percent.
In Tarrant County, the largest solidly red county in Texas and the country, the pair are virtually tied with Cruz slightly ahead at 50 percent. Hillary Clinton got 43 percent of the vote in 2016 there.
In early voting, Beto is only down 46-53 percent in super-red Collin County. Seems auspicious for Beto. By contrast, Hillary got 39 percent of the vote in Collin County in 2016.
In Fort Bend County, in greater Houston, Beto leads with 55 percent of the vote.
UPDATE 8 p.m.:
In Harris County, the state’s largest electorate, Beto leads with 57 percent to 42 percent.
In El Paso County, Beto’s home county, Beto leads with 74 percent.
From rural reporter Christopher Collins: “Beto is slightly ahead in Brewster County, which is FAR West Texas. Down in every other rural county that has returned numbers.”
In Williamson County, a suburb north of Austin that typically elects conservative lawmakers, Beto is leading 51 percent to 48 percent in early voting.
It’s still early…
6:55 p.m., In Austin, First-Time Voter Casts Ballot After Restoring Rights Following Conviction
James Kroening, 55, voted for the first time today at the Travis County Juvenile Probation Annex in South Austin. He didn’t think he could vote until Maria Bergh, a frequent customer of the Salvation Army location where he works, told him he could — he became eligible in 2015, when his probation ended. Bergh helped Kroening register and the two were at the same polling location on Tuesday.
Kroening didn’t indicate who he’s voting for, but said voting is “no big deal.” He went on, “I got in trouble when I was a kid so I had no right to vote. I’m doing it because I told [Bergh] I would.”
Though state law restores Texans’ voting rights after they finish their sentence, the myth that felons can’t vote is still widespread. A law which would have sent voter registration information to ex-felons when their rights were restored passed the Legislature in 2007, but was vetoed by then-Governor Rick Perry.
Lewis Conway Jr., a convicted felon who is running for City Council in Austin, has made raising awareness about voting rights a priority in his campaign.
Bergh wanted to be more engaged for this year’s midterms, so she became a volunteer deputy registrar.
“Because I am a big Beto supporter, the main thing was mobilization and getting people who have otherwise been disenfranchised or otherwise non-voters for whatever reason — to vote,” she said. “Nobody had told him, ‘Dude, yes, you can. Here’s what you do.’”
6:50 p.m., In the Rio Grande Valley, New Citizens Turn Out to Vote for the First Time
— Sophie Novack
Fifty-one-year old Sandra Cantu had never voted before today. Originally from Matamoros, Mexico, Cantu has lived for the last 30 years in Brownsville, just over a mile from the border. She finally became a citizen and registered to vote this spring, motivated by President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies that have sent fear through Latino communities like the Rio Grande Valley.
Asked why she decided to apply for citizenship now, Cantu said, “To have a bit more security here in the United States, to have voting rights.”
6:45 p.m., Project Veritas Is Full of It
— Gus Bova
Project Veritas, the fake news-spewing brainchild of trenchcoat-wearing prankster James O’Keefe, has attempted to strike again. On the heels of a staggeringly shoddy and immediately debunked hit job on the Beto O’Rourke campaign, the group released a video this afternoon purporting to show poll workers in Texas allowing noncitizens to vote.
As is typical for Project Veritas, the video actually shows nothing of the sort. In the 2-minute clip, an undercover “journalist” questions a pair of poll workers in a Travis County polling place. “So let’s just say my boyfriend is a Dreamer but he’s registered to vote, he just needs his ID, right?” the Project Veritas person asks. “That’s it,” the poll worker replies.
Later, the questioner — who’s granted anonymity, unlike the unsuspecting poll workers — asks another unwitting victim, “We have Dreamers voting right?” And the worker responds in the affirmative.
Never does the ersatz investigator ask whether the poll workers know what a “Dreamer” or “DACA” is. Never do we actually see a noncitizen voting. Indeed, any reasonable viewer can see that the poll workers are simply providing assurances that anyone with an ID who is registered to vote, can vote.
Governor Greg Abbott is apparently willing to signal-boost the Project Veritas video, even though he tacitly acknowledges that it could be a fraud. “I can’t verify if this is accurate. I CAN verify that it will be investigated,” tweeted Abbott — governor of some 28 million souls — shortly after the video came out.
4:30 p.m., Polling Problems Plague Houston
— Connor Brown
As a record number of midterm voters flock to the polls in Texas, voters in the state’s most populous county have been plagued with long lines; delays or closures of certain polling places; technical difficulties and at least one racist poll worker.
At least 18 polling locations in Harris County either didn’t open on time or opened only partially due to limited working machines, according to the Texas Tribune. In several instances, voters were told to come back later in the day and were not offered paper ballots as an alternative. The Texas Civil Rights project said on Twitter it had secured an emergency court ruling to open nine of the locations for an extra hour Tuesday night.
At one of the functioning polling places in North Houston Tuesday, an assistant election judge could be charged with assault after confusion over a voter’s address prompted a dispute.
The Houston Chronicle reports Juanita Barnes told the voter, “If I were to wear my blackface makeup, maybe you would understand what I’m telling you.” The voter, Rolanda Anthony, said she tried to walk away but that Barnes followed her through the polling place, bumping into the woman as she continued to yell.
“If you call the police, they’re going to take you to jail and do something to you, because I’m white,” Barnes told Anthony, who is black, in front of several witnesses, the Chronicle reported.
Anthony successfully cast her vote. Barnes was relieved of her duties by the Harris County Clerk’s office and, after deputies took witness statements, faces a criminal assault charge.
Republican Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, who is in charge of elections in the country’s third-most populous county and is himself on the ballot, has been a lightning rod for controversy this cycle.
Last week, Stanart scrubbed his re-election site after peddling anti-Semitic, George Soros-related conspiracies. The change came weeks after a crazed Trump supporter allegedly mailed a pipe bomb to Soros’ New York home. Stanart, one of many Republican leaders in Texas who’ve demonized Soros, changed each mention of “George Soros” to “liberal socialist Democrats.” Stanart also sent out campaign mailers that look conspicuously like voter registration cards, warning that Democrats could control county elections if he loses Tuesday.
Other, smaller issues have been reported across the state, many related to Texas’ archaic fleet of voting machines. A power outage and subsequent machine problems forced some voters in Denton County to cast straight-ticket emergency ballots. After a handful of Travis County polling locations opened late or at reduced capacity, a spokesperson for the elections office cited poll workers with “>stage fright.” In Williamson County, a poll worker resigned after video showed her yelling at a confused voter to leave. Some people in Arlington either didn’t vote or had to cast paper ballots after machines failed for several hours.
3:15 p.m., On Election Day, Students Rally for Voting Rights at Texas’ Oldest HBCU
Civil rights reporter Michael Barajas covered a rally at Prairie View A&M University Tuesday. The march to the polls was meant to fire up voters and remind students of the majority-black city’s history of discrimination and voter suppression.
Students chanted and blared music atop a trailer that snaked through the campus streets, attracting some 200 students that marched with them to the campus polling place. They carried impromptu signs with messages like “No Vote, No Hope” and “PVAMU’s Ancestors EARNED the RIGHT to Vote in Waller County!”
1:45 p.m., Texas’ Record-Setting Early Vote Turnout Increases Unknowns on Election Day
— Andrea Guzmán
How big has turnout been in Texas this year? At the end of early voting, turnout in the state’s 30 largest counties had surpassed the total turnout from 2014, the last mid-term year. Whatever happens on Election Day will only add to the state’s biggest ever midterm turnout. Nearly 40 percent of registered voters in those 30 counties — where nearly 4 out of 5 Texans live — cast a ballot during early voting. That means Texas could very well beat its record turnout rate for a midterm election — 54 percent in 1970.
But that spike, coupled with 1.6 million new registered voters since the 2014 midterms, means predicting Election Day results are, in some cases, next to impossible.
“There are a lot of unusual voters, first-time voters, irregular voters coming out. We just don’t know what they will do,” said Michael Li, senior counsel for the Democracy Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice. “They all may come out on Election Day. It is a great unknown. I think people are prepared for a wild night on election night. Including in Texas.”
More and more Texans are voting early, with pre-Election Day votes accounting for 56 percent of the ballots cast in 2014 and 77 percent in 2016. The trend can be attributed to both parties feeling energized for different reasons, said Li.
One looming question is whether turnout will continue to impress on Election Day. More than 25,000 voters cast ballots in Travis County in the first three-and-a-half hours that polls were open, according to KUT. In El Paso, voters cast 24,000 ballots by 1 p.m Tuesday. Some number crunchers are predicting the total statewide turnout will eclipse 8 million votes.
“You have to think the energy seems to bode well for Democrats,” he said. “Whether it’s well enough to win, I don’t know. But it will certainly be a closer race than Texans have seen in a long time.”
Most observers attribute the boost in turnout to dissatisfaction with the Trump administration, combined with the competitiveness of the race between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz. Jeff Blaylock, founder of Texas Election Source, a data analysis group, said O’Rourke’s charisma and nonstop statewide campaigning is helping to drive up turnout. He added that there are countering efforts on the Republican side, including President Trump’s rally for Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott and other GOP leaders helping finance candidates down the ballot.
On October 29, seven days into early voting, Dallas County passed its same-day totals from the 2016 presidential election. And voters in El Paso County between the ages of 18 to 29 have had a 58 percent higher turnout than in 2014, according to KVIA. To meet demand for voting, the University of Texas at Austin brought in a second voting location this year. (Some other campuses in more conservative counties cut voting hours for students only to expand them again after being threatened with lawsuits.)
Still, the record turnout in Texas may not be enough for the state improve its bottom-of-the-barrel rank in voter participation.
“Other states are also turning out at higher rates than they typically do in midterm elections,” Blaylock said. “And while Texas looks to jump up the leaderboard, the whole leaderboard looks like it’s moving up as well. So we may still end up [near the bottom] despite a big jump in turnout.”
12:45 p.m., Will the Rio Grande Valley Show Up for Beto on Election Day?
— Gus Bova
The Rio Grande Valley, home to some 1.3 million Texans, tends not to flex its electoral might. As Ricco Garcia, co-founder of the voter outreach group Cambio Texas, put it, the Valley is the “epicenter of non-voting Latinos in Texas.”
But 2018 looks different. In Hidalgo and Cameron Counties — where the vast majority of Valley residents live — early voter turnout leapfrogged total turnout for the 2014 midterms. Check these numbers out:
Those votes are crucial, because Beto O’Rourke’s narrow shot at success hinges on historic turnout from Democratic-leaning Latino voters. Garcia said his organization’s goal is turning out 60,000 more voters in Hidalgo County than in 2014. They need 25,000 today to hit that benchmark.
Statewide, Dems also need Valley residents to keep showing up to the polls today, because enthusiasm in Texas has not been confined to blue areas. Deep-red Collin County, for example, posted a jaw-dropping 49 percent turnout as of Friday — with plenty of likely Republican voters left to go.
12:30 p.m., In El Paso, Beto O’Rourke Volunteers Launch Last-Minute GOTV Efforts
— Justin Miller
El Paso, an hour behind the rest of the state, will be the last county to file its election returns tonight — and the campaign is hoping for O’Rourke’s hometown to show up in a big way. An aggressive field program, coupled with his hometown celebrity, has fueled huge early voting totals here, which nearly doubled the total turnout from 2014.
On the day before Election Day, I swung by a Beto pop-up office near downtown El Paso.
11: 15 a.m., Empower Texans Has a Lot on the Line in Tonight’s Elections
— Gus Bova
Empower Texans, the arch-reactionary political group dedicated to pushing Texas so far right it asphyxiates in the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone, has serious skin in the game tonight. Through its two PACs, the group — funded by oil and gas barons Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks — has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into around a dozen races since the May runoffs. Empower’s gladiators tonight range from vulnerable state legislators like Senator Konni Burton and Representative Matt Rinaldi, to anti-vaccine newcomers like Lisa Luby Ryan. After generally rough primaries for the group this year, Empower Texans will be looking to prove it hasn’t lost its political juice. Here’s the list of races that we’re watching to see whether Democrats can pull the plug on Empower Texans:
- Konni Burton ($360K) — SD 10
- Matt Rinaldi ($200K) — HD 115
- Don Huffines ($150K) — SD 16
- Jonathan Boos ($130K) — HD 113
- Deanna Maria Metzger ($110K) HD 107
- Dan Patrick ($75K) — Lieutenant Governor
- Michael Toth ($50K)— 3rd Court of Appeals
- Matt Shaheen ($45K) — HD 66
- Lisa Luby Ryan ($10K) — HD 114
- Steve Toth ($5K) — HD 15
- James Pikl ($5K) — 5th Court of Appeals
10:50 a.m., Border Patrol Postpones Election Day Crowd Control Exercise in Hispanic Neighborhood in El Paso
— Kolten Parker
After criticism from lawmakers and civil rights groups, Border Patrol canceled a “crowd control” exercise it had scheduled for 10 a.m. El Paso time, according to Texas Monthly.
Federal agents announced Monday night that they would conduct a “crowd control” exercise near the Paso del Norte international bridge on Election Day. Media were invited to the 11 a.m. CST event, which included “participants and assets” from Customs and Border Protection. Officials at the scene of the event told reporters it would put out a statement later about the cancelation.
Texas Monthly reported the event would take place between Chihuahuita, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of about 100 homes near the border, and a polling place. The neighborhood is El Paso’s oldest, and federal officials recently began building a border wall there, according to the El Paso Times.
Democratic lawmakers from El Paso and civil rights groups criticized the event as a fear-mongering political stunt and voter intimidation. (Read more about Texas officials who have suppressed the vote this election.)
“Why this is happening now, why the president is stirring these issues up at this moment with 24 hours before we decide this election, I’ll leave that to you to conclude,” O’Rourke told Texas Monthly.
CBP officials initially told the magazine that the exercise has no connection to Election Day and is part of the agency’s ongoing preparations for a caravan of Central American migrants that are hundreds of miles away in Mexico. But on Tuesday morning, less than an hour before it was supposed to begin, the feds called it off.
9 a.m., Beto Votes and the World Watches
There’s perhaps no better way to capture the insane media frenzy that has been Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign than the scene that unfolded as he arrived at his polling place in the Sunset Heights neighborhood of El Paso to vote at around 7 a.m., Mountain Standard Time.
Dozens of members of the press lined the street across from the El Paso Community College campus yelling questions while photographers griped about how O’Rourke wasn’t giving them a good shot. Everyone waited in anticipation while he voted inside, and when he came out and began crossing the street to talk to reporters, the horde of TV cameras and microphones formed a circle around him in the middle of the street with impressive speed and agility. And that’s where he took questions like “How do you feel?” (“I feel good.”) and “Do you expect to win?” (Yes.). After the middle-of-the-street gaggle, he walked the couple blocks back to his house to get his kids to school with a media entourage in tow.
O’Rourke’s campaign has garnered an absurd amount of national press coverage — and international, too (there were at least a couple foreign media members here). He’s the subject of at least two documentaries (probably more), he’s been profiled in nearly every glossy magazine in the country, he got his own town hall segment on CNN and then one on MSNBC and his campaign trail gambits (a la, skateboarding at a Whataburger) go viral with ease.
His bid against Ted Cruz has arguably become the most covered non-presidential race in modern political history. It’s a symptom of both the Trump era and the media’s bias toward a good story and compelling characters. Tonight, we’ll find out what it’s all amounted to.
12 a.m., What We’re Watching on Election Day
There, we’ll see just how well a Democratic statewide candidate can do amid a favorable political climate, with unlimited cash, a huge investment in GOTV and all the intangibles that a really charismatic candidate like O’Rourke brings. We should have a pretty clear idea of how that and other races are playing out when most early voting returns are posted at 7 p.m. (here, in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, early returns will post at 8 p.m. CST.)
The other big question: how much of a suburban swing Democrats will see outside a presidential election. Their strategy both nationally and in Texas has hinged on flipping GOP-held districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
That calculus is the animating force behind several competitive congressional races in Texas — particularly in suburban Houston and Dallas — that national Democrats are banking on in order to win control of the House. The gamble is that Trump’s extremism coupled with well-financed challengers will prompt hordes of white moderate Republicans to cast a protest vote against incumbents. Polling suggests the most competitive congressional races will likely be in the 7th Congressional District, CD-22, CD-23 and CD-32. See our Races to Watch series for more highlights.
A similar dynamic is at play in state legislative races, where Democrats are trying to flip several House and a handful of Senate seats — predominantly in suburban Dallas and Fort Worth. Beto has made the Metroplex a focal point of his campaign. Will Betomania create coattails there?
One last thing we’re keeping an eye on: will there be a substantial spike in Latino turnout in Texas? O’Rourke has made a concerted effort to turn out Latinos along the border and in Houston and San Antonio, among other cities. He’ll need a big uptick to stand a chance statewide. A big boost could also give an advantage to Gina Ortiz Jones, who’s challenging Republican Will Hurd in the 23rd Congressional District, a border seat that is 70 percent Latino and has long seen abysmal turnout rates.
The stakes are incredibly high for both parties in Texas. Democrats and their energized base have come alive in the Trump era and they’ve set their expectations high. Everyone’s heart is invested into yet another quixotic statewide bid and a blowout would be demoralizing. On top of that, they have invested a lot of money and energy into some down-ballot races that have been uphill climbs from the start. They need a good showing there.
Republicans, on the other hand, need to prove that Texas is still Texas. The bet has always been that this is the biggest, reddest state in the land, and that voters like it that way. But if Beto makes it close — or, gulp, even wins — and if they aren’t able to protect key GOP incumbents from getting ousted, that could signal the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we know it. Texas will be open season in future election cycles. If they win big, maybe Democrats, they hope, will finally get it through their heads that they cannot California Texas.