Election 2020

Texas Democrats’ Bid To Flip State House Fails

Houston Public Media and the Texas Newsroom are following all of the races for the Texas House of Representatives this election cycle, as Democrats hope to gain a majority for the first time in nearly two decades.

The floor of the Texas House of Representatives.

Update from KERA | Texas House Appears To Remain In Republican Control

Updated 3:24 p.m. CT Wednesday

Texas Democrats needed to pick up a net nine seats to flip the state House of Representatives. Instead, with unofficial results tallied, it became clear Wednesday that they would flip zero, and that Republicans would in fact hold on to their majority in the state House.

The Texas Democratic Party, which had targeted as many as 22 seats, acknowledged it had come up well short of its goal Wednesday, and said the party would regroup.

"There is no doubt that Texas Democrats have work to do,” read a statement from Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa. “We have tough questions to ask ourselves. There are significant challenges before us, and new solutions are required. The future of Texas is at stake.”

Republicans meanwhile were confident after a night of victories.

"I think the fact that the numbers are going more towards us compared to 2018, which is what a lot of Democrats were using as their gauge to say that we were in trouble, says that our economics is working, our policies are working," said Republican political analyst Jacquie Baly.

Updated 11:36 a.m. CT Wednesday

Note: Because of a data discrepancy between results calculated by the Associated Press and results released by the Harris County Clerk’s Office, we’re no longer calling Texas House District 148 flipped for Republicans. We’re monitoring the results from that race today as they become more clear.

In the only confirmed seat to flip for Democrats so far, Houston State Rep. Sarah Davis, one of the most moderate members of the Texas GOP, has conceded to Democratic challenger Ann Johnson. The 134th District, which Davis has represented since 2010, has been an outlier in past elections, turning out in large numbers for Beto O’Rourke and Hillary Clinton but continuing to elect the Republican Davis, in part because of her support for abortion rights and LGBT issues. But Davis has also taken a hard line on immigration issues, co-sponsoring the controversial Senate Bill 4 that banned sanctuary cities in Texas.

The AP called dozens of other state House races around 4 a.m. Wednesday. Most were called for the incumbents.

Updated 1:16 a.m. CT Wednesday

Most of the state House races have not been called, but many of the races Democrats needed in order to take control looked to be leaning Republican.

A notable exception was Houston GOP moderate Sarah Davis, who was trailing her opponent, Democrat Ann Johnson, into the early morning.

Davis' seat was at the top of the list for the Texas Democratic Party this election cycle.

Democrats think they have a shot at flipping the Texas House of Representatives for the first time since 2002 — and if they do, there's a lot that can change come 2021.

State House Republicans have a slim eight-seat majority over Democrats. But the state Democratic Party has identified 22 races as priorities this election cycle, even as the party looks to defend 12 seats it flipped in 2018.

Houston State Rep. Sarah Davis — one of the most moderate members of the Texas GOP — is a popular incumbent. But her district has been trending Democratic for years.

In 2016, Beto O’Rourke carried Davis' district by more than 20 percentage points, and her race is near the top of the list for the state Democratic party to flip.

The Texas House last flipped to Republicans in 2002, and has remained conservative throughout the last 18 years, redrawing congressional district lines that helped solidify Republican influence.

Democrats now have their own shot at reshaping how the district maps are drawn: Next year is again a redistricting year, and a flipped House means Democrats would have more of a role in shaping Texas' political future.

MORE | Listen to KUT's podcast series, "The Big Flip"

That's one reason national groups are spending big money to elect Democrats across Texas, including $12 million from the group Forward Majority — double the amount the national Democratic super PAC had initially pledged to spend.

In their best case scenario, Democrats would only control one chamber of the state legislature, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would still lead the state.

But a flipped state house would also mean Democrats could influence the choice of next House speaker. State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the current speaker, announced in October that he would not seek reelection after just 10 months on the job. Bonnen was caught on tape disparaging other members of the House, leading to calls for his resignation from members of both parties.

Legislators who have filed for the speaker race include Houston’s Senfronia Thompson, as well as Oscar Longoria from Mission and Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio. Republicans Dade Phelan of Beaumont, Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Chris Paddie of Marshall and Geanie Morrison of Victoria have all filed as well.

In addition to redistricting, COVID-19 is sure to play an outsized role in the 87th legislative session — especially as lawmakers have to contend with a budget shortfall thanks to falling sales tax revenue since the beginning of the pandemic.

Of course, Democrats come up short. Or, they could pick up just eight seats — leading to an unprecedented tie in the state House.

Houston Public Media and the Texas Newsroom will be following these races closely across the state, to see if the power dynamic in Texas is truly about to shift.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Trovall

MORE FROM KUT IN AUSTIN | A Beginner’s Guide To The Texas Legislature

See all results from Texas House races across the state, below.

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