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What happened in Texas elections: A breakdown of key races and why neither party is satisfied

Political researchers and officials from both parties weighed in on key wins and losses in Tuesday elections, as results came into clearer focus Wednesday.

DALLAS — The national political narrative Wednesday morning was of Democrats overperforming and stopping a predicted red wave. It didn’t materialize in Texas either, but neither party us truly happy with the results.

“Obviously we would love better results in the statewide elections,” Jamarr Brown, the Texas Democratic Party executive director, said.

Seeking a silver lining despite double-digit losses in the top statewide races, Brown notes Democrats won two of three south Texas congressional races and they saw gains in urban and suburban areas with Abbott’s vote percentage declining in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties compared to 2018.

“Both sides need an energized electorate, particularly Democrats,” SMU political science professor Cal Jillson said. “They didn’t have it this time.”

Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in Texas in 28 years. In 2022, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton all won by nearly identical margins, despite Paxton appearing vulnerable facing a whistleblower lawsuit and federal indictment.

“I did think that one might be a little closer than the other, but it turned out that that didn’t matter at all,” Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU political science professor said.

Riddlesperger and Jillson said increasing partisanship could be a reason for the similar performance with blue areas of the state becoming bluer in 2022 and red, conservative areas becoming even stronger Republican holds.

Turnout was lower than many expected with 9.6 million registered voters not casting a ballot, which Riddlesperger credits to the lack of a competitive Senate race like occurred in 2018.

“While Democrats can’t take any heart from what happened yesterday, I think they can take the message of, 'Golly we’re getting closer,'” he said. “I think it’s wishful thinking that democrats could even be competitive in Texas this year.”

Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi tweeted a thread touted GOP successes and opportunities this year, saying in one, “Though we outperformed our internal polls statewide, a much smaller red shift than we hoped in the suburbs and valley resulted in narrow losses in the Harris County Judge & Dallas COA races. Losing @MayraFlores2022 was very disappointing.”

Republican Mayra Flores lost TX-34, a South Texas district, after winning in a special election this June. During redistricting, the district was drawn to heavily favor Democrats, making her June win a major upset. Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project lists just two Texas congressional districts as competitive after redistricting. Republicans and Democrats split the two seats with TX-15 going to Republicans and TX-28 going to Democrats.

“For us it’s been important to make sure we run up the numbers in urban areas but now also begin to build those incremental gains in suburban areas,” Brown said. “There were wins and gains that we were able to attain despite Republicans outspending us across the state.”

Democrats dropped one of their 65 Texas House seats and one of 13 state Senate seats but note suburb successes like Mihaela Plesa, the first Democratic state representative elected in Collin County in decades despite being outraised four to one by Republican opponent Jamee Jolly.

Democrats won or are leading in four of six Texas House seats Princeton listed as competitive and are winning but in recount territory in the lone competitive state Senate seat, SD 27.

“Nobody expected very much change in Texas at all and that’s exactly the way it turned out,” Jillson said.

Now that Election Day is over, the focus is on what will change with lawmakers headed to Austin in two months.

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