The 2018 Midterms in Texas: Significant Change With More Than a Dash of Status Quo

When dreams were young. Beto supporter  Emily Ammons McGovern said Tuesday that whatever happened, at least they tried really hard.
When dreams were young. Beto supporter Emily Ammons McGovern said Tuesday that whatever happened, at least they tried really hard. Photo by Margaret Downing

As results came in Tuesday night, it became clear that hopes for a blue wave overtaking the state of Texas were not going to be realized. Incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott defeated Lupe Valdez and in the most watched race not only for Texas, but in the nation, Republican Senator Ted Cruz held on to his U.S. Senate seat in the face of the determined, well-funded challenge by Democrat Beto O'Rourke.  Lt. Governor Dan Patrick held on to his seat.

Closer to home, the results were a lot bluer, not only in the voting on statewide issues but local and congressional races. In a defeat for the party of President Trump, Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher beat out longtime Republican incumbent John Culberson for the spot as U.S. representative in the 7th Congressional district.  Democrat Sylvia Garcia was elected in the 29th Congressional District and both were among the victors who moved the U.S. House to control by the Democrats.

And longtime County Judge Ed Emmett was bounced by Democratic challenger Lina Hidalgo., the 27-year-old political novice. At the same time, Democrat Adrian Garcia  was holding a slight lead over incumbent Republican Jack Morman.

Still, Republican Sarah Davis was able to hold on to her seat in the Texas House, representing District 134.

click to enlarge Ted Cruz, making his victory speech. - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Ted Cruz, making his victory speech.
Photo by Jack Gorman

It was a very long day in Harris County and the surrounding areas as reports of problems with voting machines, poll worker errors and a racist tirade as reported in the Houston Chronicle were among the day's highlights. Nine polling places in Harris County were ordered to remain open till 8 p.m. instead of the 7 p.m. cutoff time after they failed to open for voting at 7 that morning.

As a result, the release of early and absentee vote totals was delayed and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pushed back his scheduled address to the media. He issued a statement, bemoaning the passage of Houston's Proposition B which called for pay parity between the city's firefighters and its police officers, saying that this move would result in additional costs that the city cannot pay and would probably result in a lot of firefighters losing their jobs.

"Under our city charter we don’t have a way to raise taxes to pay for this. The only way out is cuts in spending, and by far our biggest spending is on payroll.

"So the apparent passage of Prop B puts us on course for layoffs. Some firefighters who had hoped to benefit from Prop B will lose their jobs instead — while older firefighters get a 29 percent pay hike.

"Regrettably, the Fire Department budget alone will not be able to absorb these additional costs. Other departments such as police, solid waste, parks and libraries will be adversely affected.

"I hope and trust the residents of Houston will bear with us as we work to balance the city's budget with an an additional $100 million a year added to our expenses."

In some races it seemed that no matter how many missteps have been made by incumbents, that really wasn't something that bothered voters on either side.  Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), Land Commissioner George P. Bush (R) and Texas Senator Ron Reynolds (D) were all returned to their seats, even though Reynolds will continue to serve a one-year jail term (or portion thereof) for his conviction on the misdemeanor charge of illegal solicitation of clients in his law practice. Paxton remains under indictment for alleged securities fraud. And Bush had been criticized on two major issues to Texans: his management of the Alamo and what many considered a poor response to post-Harvey needs by his office.

Over in Fort Bend County, a lot of blue voting was also in evidence, especially in races that had been held for years by Republicans. While incumbent Republican U.S. Rep Pete Olson was able to hang on to his seat in a squeaker, other Republicans were not so fortunate.

District  Longtime Incumbent County Judge Robert E. "Bob" Hebert was defeated by Democrat KP George, a Fort Bend ISD trustee.  Democrat Brian Middleton defeated Republican Cliff Vacek to win the District Attorney spot in Fort Bend County, becoming the first African American to do so.

click to enlarge Rodrigo Carreon said he was ready for some significant change in Fort Bend County and seems like, in part, he got it. - PHOTO BY MARGARET DOWNING
Rodrigo Carreon said he was ready for some significant change in Fort Bend County and seems like, in part, he got it.
Photo by Margaret Downing
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing