NEWS

Texas 2020 General Election and U.S. Presidental Election

In some ways, last night’s historic election was like a Hollywood blockbuster. Big stars, with big expectations. A monstrous budget, a record-breaking turnout at the box office, lines around the block, everyone talking about it. A nail-biter throughout, with a cliffhanger ending that leaves you guessing. And yet, despite all the hype and money splashed across the video screen, when it concludes and you step out of the theater and into the sunshine, everything is pretty much the same.

The night’s biggest race, between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, remains undetermined, and it could be hours, days or even weeks of ambiguity ahead. Presently, Biden leads Trump in the all-important Electoral College 227-213, with undecided battleground states including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona. To prevail, one candidate needs to exceed 270 Electoral College votes. Counting is ongoing, and we should start to see results by the end of the day. However, Pres. Trump easily prevailed in Texas.

Down-ballot, most of the other political landscapes saw very little change. While some states are still undecided, the U.S. Senate appears to remain under GOP control (with a few new faces) and the U.S. House of Representatives looks to have stayed under the control of the Democratic party. The unprecedented attention to presidential politics failed to dramatically impact races closer to home as well - longtime Republican U.S. Senator from Texas John Cornyn handily prevailed in his bid for a fourth term against Democrat MJ Hegar, and the partisan make-up in the Texas Congressional delegation remains the same (23 Rs and 13 Ds). There was a one-seat gain for Democrats in the Texas Senate, and while some close races could conceivably change via recount, there remains 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats in the Texas House.

There was really only one race in Texas that was expected to impact the partisan divide in the State Senate (19 Rs and 12 Ds heading into election night): Senate District 19, held by Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), who was elected in a special election in 2018 to represent the historically Democratic district running from San Antonio to West Texas. Last night, he was defeated by seven-term State Representative Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio). One special election remains – on December 19, Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) squares off against Dallas hair salon owner Shelley Luther (R) in a runoff for Senate District 30, to replace Pat Fallon (R-Prosper), who was elected to Congress yesterday.

The 18 R - 13 D margin in the Senate is significant, because typically it takes nineteen votes to move a bill through the Texas Senate. Previously, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had the luxury of only needing Republican votes to advance conservative legislation. Now, he will need to rely on at least one Democrat. It remains to be seen whether Gov. Patrick and GOP Senators will consider an effort to eliminate the supermajority requirement, which would be a noteworthy departure from longstanding precedent.

The real action in state politics was in the Texas House of Representatives, where a nine-vote margin separated the GOP leadership from the Democratic minority. Many observers expected meaningful gains for the Ds, and perhaps even taking control of the Chamber. But, despite the millions poured into races all over the state, it seems it was all just a wash – there are a couple of new faces, but the partisan divide remains the same (83 Rs and 67 Ds). The flips came in Harris County, where Reps. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) and Gina Calanni (D-Houston) appear to be the only casualties. Open seats like HD138 near Houston (previously held by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston)) and HD92 in Tarrant County (previously held by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford)) have new occupants but remain in the same party. Nearly all incumbents prevailed, but there are a few that are in the margins where a recount remains possible – notably Reps. Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson) and Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston).

For the House overall, this means a GOP speaker and control of key committees. The announced Speaker candidates include Reps. Chris Paddie, Dade Phelan and Trent Ashby, and Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) who has already withdrawn her name from consideration and endorsed Rep. Ashby. And while many expect a tamer-than-usual regular session, due to budgetary shortfalls and COVID-19 continuing to impact process and the Legislature’s ability to navigate complex or controversial issues, GOP control will have a significant impact on redistricting later next summer, when the Texas Congressional delegation is predicted to gain two seats, and the Republican-led bodies will have the first crack at redrawing lines for U.S. Congress and the Texas House and Senate.

Update: Rep. Dade Phelan, (R-Beaumont) appears to have a clear path at becoming the next speaker of the Texas House after securing the support of 90 House members.

The U.S. Senate will still likely be under the control of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who turned back Amy McGrath (D), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) prevailed as well. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) lost to former CO Governor John Hickenlooper, and Sen. Martha McSally (R-Arizona) was turned out by Mark Kelly (D), as was Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama), who lost to former Auburn and Texas Tech football coach Tommy Tuberville (R). We are still awaiting results of some key races, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) vs. Call Cunningham (D), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) vs. Sara Gideon (D), and Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) vs. John Ossoff (D), with Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) and Raphael Warnock (D) squaring off in a special election runoff. The outcome of these results could deliver control of the Senate to the Democrats.

In the Texas Congressional delegation, all incumbents won their re-election bids and all open seats appear to remain in the same party’s hands. Congressional District 21 west of Austin saw perhaps the most action, with Rep. Chip Roy (R) turning back former State Senator Wendy Davis (D). Reps. John Carter (R-Round Rock) and Roger Williams (R-Weatherford) faced spirited challengers but prevailed handily.

Meanwhile, the counting continues, and uncertainty remains. President Trump declared victory early this morning and said he would be going to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to stop what he describes as improper ballot counting, but millions of votes are still being reviewed across multiple states. Early handicapping suggests Pres. Trump leads in Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and former Vice President Biden is anticipated to gain votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona. One can expect a great deal of litigation forthcoming, and who will assume the office of the President in January, 2021 remains very much in doubt.

Election Results and Summary: Primary Run-Off and Special Election in SD-14 July 14, 2020

Election Summary

TOP STORIES: Among the key races that received the most scrutiny, MJ Hegar narrowly prevailed in the closely-watched U.S. Senate Democratic Primary to take on longtime Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn. Hegar was the front runner for much of the primary, and benefitted from her support from the traditional Democratic Party infrastructure and her fundraising prowess.

Meanwhile, former Travis Co. Judge Sarah Eckhardt and current State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (both Democrats from Austin) appear to be headed to a runoff in the special election in State Senate District 14. The pair easily outdistanced their four other challengers to replace the retired Sen. Kirk Watson, whose term ends in 2022.

And although it would have been considered heresy a few short years ago, a recently released Dallas Morning News poll suggests that Texas is up for grabs. The poll indicates that former Vice President Joe Biden actually leads President Donald Trump by a five-point margin (48-43) among likely voters. The same poll suggests that Cornyn leads Hegar by a thirteen-point margin, but that’s not a complete picture – Hegar should see a meaningful bump as Democrats coalesce around one candidate, meaning Cornyn could have a real race on his hands.

OTHER KEY RACES

Texas Senate

In the Democratic primary in Senate District 19, State Rep. Roland Gutierrez prevailed over Xochil Pena Rodriguez for the opportunity to challenge State Sen. Pete Flores in the general election. Sen. Flores, a Republican from Pleasanton, won the historically Democratic seat in a special election in 2018 with a great deal of support from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, but if the Democrats have a big year, one could expect this seat to flip back.

In the Rio Grande Valley, in Senate District 27, State Senator Eddie Lucio was victorious in the runoff for the Democratic primary against newcomer Sarah Stapleton Barrera. The longtime state senator was forced into a runoff by a crowded field.

Despite his being a Democrat, Senator Lucio’s victory is a significant win for the Senate’s Republican governing majority led by Lt. Gov Patrick. Should Sen. Flores fail to retain Senate District 19, the partisan split in the Senate will drop to 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats. However, Sen. Lucio can frequently be counted on by the Republican leadership to support certain GOP priorities, and presumably Barrera would have been a more reliable Democratic vote. Typically, 19 votes are required in the Senate to pass legislation, and with the periodic defection of Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) on some issues, Gov. Patrick could find himself counting on Sen. Lucio more than ever to advance certain conservative causes.

Texas House of Representatives

Several closely watched races will affect the partisan balance of the Texas House. Among them:

House District 2 – Republican Primary: Incumbent Dan Flynn was ousted by conservative Bryan Slaton in this East Texas seat. Rep. Flynn was a chairman and a key ally of the GOP leadership. Slaton will likely promote a more conservative agenda.

House District 59 – Republican Primary: Incumbent J.D. Sheffield, a physician from Stephenville, was defeated by Shelby Slawson in one of the more high-profile contests. Rep. Sheffield was an avid supporter of the House of Medicine, particularly on immunization and vaccine issues, and has been targeted by the far right in recent years.

House District 60 – Republican Primary: In somewhat of a surprise, veterinarian Glenn Rogers of Graford defeated Jon Francis of Cisco in a bid to replace the retiring Rep. Mike Lang (R – Granbury). There is no Democratic opponent in the race. Both candidates have solid conservative credentials, but Francis is related by marriage to the Wilks Brothers, patriarchs of a billionaire family of staunch conservatives who dole out millions in financial support for far-right candidates and causes.

House District 138 – Democratic Primary: Houston area attorney Akilah Bacy topped Jennifer Rene Pool in the race to fill the seat left by retiring State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston). Bacy will take on business owner Lacey Hull in the general election in November. This Houston-area seat could flip to the Democrats in the fall with a strong showing.

House District 142 – Democratic Primary: Longtime State Rep. Harold Dutton survived against Houston City Councilman Jerry Davis in one of the most bitterly contested races of the year. Rep. Dutton received a great deal of local criticism for his sponsorship of an education-related bill from several sessions ago, and was forced into a runoff by a “phantom” candidate, who finished third in the initial primary without mounting a campaign, and actually may be a truck driver in Colorado who never filed for the seat.

ANALYSIS

With the ballots now set for the fall general election contest, the question becomes: Will the Democrats capitalize on the historic circumstances facing the nation leading up to the 2020 elections? The challenges are well-documented – a global pandemic leaving more than 130,000 Americans dead, a COVID-ravaged economic landscape, and profound social unrest coupled to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Meanwhile, Pres. Trump’s disconnected response to all three tribulations leaves the Democrats well-positioned to build upon the historic “Blue Wave” they enjoyed in the 2018 midterm elections.

If the 2020 general election were held today, it is likely that Pres. Trump would face a momentous defeat at the hand of the presumptive Democratic nominee Biden. The U.S. House would probably become more Democratic as well, potentially adding to the 40-seat gain in 2018. And while most observers speculated early in the election cycle that the U.S. Senate would remain safely Republican, that would be a considerably more dangerous bet today. Even the Texas House could flip, assuming several key races fall the Democrats’ way. All in all, Pres. Trump’s declining approval rating, and a Democratic lead over Republicans in generic congressional and Texas State House polling, collectively spell big problems for the GOP in the fall.

With that said, the election is obviously NOT being held today. There are nearly four months ahead before the November general election – a lifetime in politics – and it is reasonable to predict that Pres. Trump can regain his footing, and assist his party down the ballot. If COVID-19 infections begin to slow and the U.S. economy meaningfully improves, and if Pres. Trump can develop a consistent and reassuring message to the American people, there is still plenty of time for the GOP ship to be righted.

We will be watching this final sprint to November closely, and will continue to report on developments as they occur.

Click here to view all the up to date results in more detail. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

January 28, 2020 Special Election Run-offs in House Districts 28, 100, and 148

The results are in for the special election run-offs in House Districts 28, 100, and 148.

A special election was held in three districts in Texas on Tuesday night. Most of the attention was concentrated on District 28 due to the impact that election could have on the majority in the Texas House.

Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg) won the District 28 seat vacated by Rep. John Zerwas (R) who retired after the 86thLegislative session. This win will most likely give Republicans confidence going into November with hopes of keeping their majority. The race drew national attention, with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren endorsing Democrat Eliz Markowitz, and significant resources being invested by both parties.

District 148 and District 100 have historically voted Democrat and last night that remained true, with results showing Anna Eastman (D-Houston) the winner in District 148 and Lorrain Birabil (D-Dallas) the winner of District 100.

RESULTS

House District 28

Vacated by John Zerwas (R-Richmond) who served 14 years in the House and was Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

  • Winner: Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg) – 17,457 votes (58.05%)
  • Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz (D-Katy) – 12,617 votes (41.95%)

House District 100

Vacated by Eric Johnson(D-Dallas) who became Mayor of Dallas.

  • Winner: Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas) – 1,643 votes (66.28%)
  • James Armstrong III (D-Dallas) – 836 votes (33.72%)

House District 148

Vacated by Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) who served for 25 years in the House retired.

  • Winner: Anna Eastman (D-Houston) – 4,527 votes (65.47%)
  • Luis La Rotta (R-Houston) – 2,388 votes (34.53%)

With GOP Supermajority at Risk in 2020, Dan Patrick Says Texas Senate May Lower Threshold to Bring Bills to the Floor

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he may seek to decrease the threshold required to move legislation in the Texas State Senate to a simple majority if Republicans lose one or two seats in November. Currently, 19 votes are required to put legislation on the floor for passage, but if Republicans lose Sen. Pete Flores, (R-Pleasanton) who is running for reelection in a historically Democratic district, Patrick said they may have to go to a simple majority of 16. He expressed confidence that Republicans will succeed in November, and that the party will keep the majority in the Senate. Democrats were very critical of this approach, believing it to erode the bi-partisan tradition of the Texas Senate. Changing the threshold requires a simple majority when senators vote to approve their rules at the start of every session. Read the full article here.

Texas Physicians Propose Mass Violence Prevention Strategies

Texas physicians laid out medicine’s priorities before a special committee of the Texas House of Representatives late last week. The hearing was held in El Paso and featured testimony from Alan Tyroch, MD, Chair of Surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso who coordinated trauma care after the mass shooting in El Paso last year, and outlined TMA’s eight recommendations for addressing mass violence. Dr. Joseph Penn, clinical professor of psychiatry at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and representing the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians also testified. Dr. Penn mentioned how mental health is not a predictor of and not the major factor in mass violence, and that the overall best predictor of future violence is past violence. Read the full article here.