2018 Midterm Elections: Race highlights and analysis

The 2018 Midterm Elections

Texans smashed midterm voter turnout records this election cycle, casting more ballots during the early voting period than they did in the entire 2014 election. The number of young voters doubled between the two elections, driven largely by enthusiasm for top ballot candidates and an increased desire to engage civically after the 2016 presidential election.

While the rumored “Blue Wave” was not enough to topple incumbent U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, it did trickle down to several competitive down ballot races. The effects were most pronounced in Dallas, where shifting demographics led to the flip of several state legislative seats held by Republican incumbents.

Below, we offer a brief analysis of the 2018 midterm election results and a review of the final polling data.

Federal and Statewide

The surprisingly competitive U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic House Representative Beto O’Rourke captured national attention in the weeks leading up to the election. Ted Cruz secured a victory with 50.9% of the vote to O'Rourke's 48.3%. O'Rourke largely carried far West Texas, South Texas, and urban areas while Cruz triumphed in East Texas, the Panhandle, and the rural regions in between.

Three U.S. Congressional house seats held by Republican incumbents were rumored to be in play this election cycle. Will Hurd (R-CD 23) won his re-election bid, but Democrats managed to unseat incumbents John Culberson (CD 7) and Pete Sessions (CD 32). These victories were part of a larger effort by Democrats to claim the U.S. House.

State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-CD 29) and former El Paso County Commissioner Veronica Escobar (D-CD-13) also made congressional history as the first-ever Latina women elected to represent Texas in the U.S. House.

Incumbent Republicans Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller all held onto their seats with mostly comfortable margins, as expected.

The Texas Senate

Republicans lost two of the three seats considered to be in play this election cycle, but they managed to hold onto their supermajority thanks to the unexpected victory of Republican Pete Flores in the recent SD 19 special election. Flores’ victory means the GOP will have 19 seats this session, despite the 2 losses, preserving their supermajority. This will allow Republicans to bring legislation to the floor without Democratic support during the 86th legislative session.

The three Senate seats at risk this election cycle were located in districts carried by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential elections: SD 10 in Tarrant County, SD 16 in Dallas, and SD 17 in Harris County.

Sen. Joan Huffman (R-SD 17) held her seat, but DFW area Republicans Don Huffines (R-SD 16) and Konni Burton (R-SD 10) lost to challengers Nathan Johnson (D) and Beverly Powell (D) respectively.

The Texas House

The effects of the Blue Wave were most pronounced in the Texas House. The 86th Texas House will consist of 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, a significant shift from the 95R/55D split during the 85th legislative session. The new party composition of the Texas House may play an interesting role in the upcoming selection of a new Speaker of the House.

Once again, Republican losses were most concentrated in the DFW area. Republican incumbents Ron Simmons (HD 65), Linda Koop (HD 102), Rodney Anderson (HD 105) and Matt Rinaldi (HD 115) lost to their Democratic challengers. Harris County Reps. Mike Schofield (R-132) and Gary Elkins (HD 135) and Central Texas incumbents Paul Workman (R-HD 47) and Tony Dale (R-136) also lost their re-election bids, for a total of eight flipped seats.

Democrats swept the three most competitive races for unoccupied seats in HD 52 and HD 113 where Republican incumbents chose not to run for re-election and HD 114 where Republican incumbent Jason Villalba lost his re-election bid. Democrats James Talarico, Rhetta Bowers, and John Turner won these races, respectively.

Sarah Davis (R-HD 134) and Lyle Larson (R-HD 122) both held their seats comfortably, despite being targeted by Gov. Abbott during their primary campaigns after a tense 85th legislative session.