Steve and Craig Holzheauser, two of TMHA's long time lobby team members, and there company, Cornerstone Government Affairs, have provided us with the following post-2020 election report.
- President Trump wins by six points
- Senator Cornyn wins by 10 points
- Early voting turnout surpassed 2016 overall turnout
- Statewide margin of victory for Republicans decreased to single digits
- Republicans retaining both chambers means they will control redistricting
A litany of polls in the closing days of the election cycle suggested Texas would be a legitimate battleground state and that a Democratic presidential candidate could prevail in Texas for the first time since 1976. In the end, those polls badly missed the mark as President Trump carried the state by six points and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) won by 10. Voters also re-elected incumbents across the board at the congressional level.
Gov. Abbot added an extra week of early voting due to the pandemic and Texans took full advantage with 9.7 million or 57 percent of registered voters voting early. The early voting turnout alone surpassed overall turnout from 2016. The expectation that Biden would be competitive in Texas and would help carry down ballot Democrats over the goal line never materialized, as Biden overperformed Hillary Clinton in Texas’ largest counties but underperformed in other parts of the state.
One area where Biden vastly underperformed Clinton was in the Rio Grande Valley where Trump appears to have won Zapata County, which Clinton won by 16 points in 2016. Biden won the fewest counties (21 of 254) of any recent Democratic presidential candidate in Texas.
National Democrats and aligned groups spent more than $30M on 22 seats to win control of the Texas House in advance of the upcoming redistricting process (when Texas will likely gain three U.S. House seats).
In 2018, Democrats picked up 12 seats despite spending less than 10 percent of the total amount that was spent this cycle.
Despite the deluge of campaign spending, Democrats came away with only one new seat as Ann Johnson defeated longtime incumbent Sarah Davis in Houston. Republicans also flipped one seat as former State Rep. Mike Schofield recaptured his old seat against incumbent Gina Calanni. Republicans were able to preserve their nine-seat majority in the Texas House and will elect a new Speaker in January. Behind the scenes jockeying for the Speaker’s gavel has already begun with a handful of announced candidates and will likely be settled this week. Democrats did manage to capture one seat in the Texas Senate as Roland Gutierrez handily defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Pete Flores in Southwest Texas.
Democrats are also poised to pick up two seats on the State Board of Education, but outside of those races, Republicans staged an unexpectedly dominant performance across the state.
Our outlook for the upcoming Legislative Session continues to be fluid as nobody seems to have a full understanding of what it will look like against the COVID-19 backdrop. We do expect a pronounced focus on the pandemic – both response and recovery – as outbreaks continue to plague the state.
The twin crises dilemma of dealing with the pandemic amid collapsed oil prices and shrinking revenues will pose a serious challenge to the Texas House and Senate budget writers and will limit the number of unrelated issues the Legislature is able to address.
We expect Republicans and Democrats to adhere to their core governing principles, while tackling these issues with Republicans focused on the economic aspects of the recovery – reopening and recapitalizing businesses, rehiring workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic and recruiting new businesses to the state for job creation.
Democrats will focus more on the pandemic response and ensuring people have access to quality health care, and that teachers, first responders and frontline workers have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
Although Texas was marginally more competitive than it has been in previous cycles, the long-awaiting and aspirational Democratic goal of turning Texas blue will have to wait at least another cycle, if not longer.