The so-called “blue wave” that Democrats had expected to wash over Texas turned out to be little more than a ripple.
After spending millions of dollars on campaign advertising in Texas, Democrats made little progress at the voting booths in their efforts to win long-held Republican seats at the state and federal level.
“We’re still a red state, in spite of a very unpopular president, and in the midst of a pandemic with the economy in doldrums,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.
None of the five GOP-held Texas House seats believed to be vulnerable in Tarrant County and surrounding areas changed hands during the election Tuesday. State Reps. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, were among those who appeared to have a wide enough lead Wednesday morning to secure re-election, although their races hadn’t yet been called.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, handily won re-election over Democratic challenger MJ Hegar — although it was his toughest competition in 18 years.
Ballots are still being counted in several high-profile Congressional races in Dallas-Fort Worth, including the battle for District 24 in Northeast Tarrant County, but as of noon Wednesday it appeared that those seats were on course to remain in Republican control.
Beth Van Duyne has declared herself a winner in District 24, although Candace Valenzuela is disputing that contention, saying several thousand mail-in and provisional ballots must still be counted.
President Trump won Texas with 52% of the vote, which is roughly the same percentage of his victory four years ago, despite a much higher voter turnout in 2020.
Several political science experts said that, while the election results were a short-term setback for Democrats, they don’t change the fact that Texas’ demographics are changing — with more college graduates, people of color and out-of-state transplants showing up at the polls. The state is likely to continue to move to the political center and be competitive in state and federal elections for years to come, they said.
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, political science professor at the University of North Texas, described the 2020 general election as “a reality check for Democrats that a lot more work needs to be done.”
“We like meteoric change, but really, when you talk about Republicans gaining control of Texas politics, that took a long time,” he said. “Certainly, in the short term the Democrats can say it’s disappointing, but I think this is a long game for them.”
Tarrant County Republican Party chairman Rick Barnes said Democrats’ decision to spend tens of millions of dollars in advertising in Texas didn’t change the fact that the state is fundamentally conservative.
“Yesterday was a clear message that the Texas vote is not for sale,” Barnes said. “I also hope that the message is very bluntly clear to the Democrats that Tarrant County remains a red county, and we are going to continue to lead.”
Democratic candidate for Congress Lisa Welch, who conceded defeat to long-time Republican U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, urged her followers on Twitter to accept the election results and steer the politically-divided nation toward healing.
“Hold this newly elected government accountable,” she wrote, “continue to exercise your rights, and continue fighting for justice and equality for all.”
Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU, called it “a status quo election.”
“I think the Democrats are very disappointed in the outcome both in Tarrant County and statewide. I mean, the story of Texas politics in 2020 is status quo,” he said. ”If you’re a Democrat, you can take a little bit of slight solace on the fact that there was a closing of the gap.”