On Tuesday night, Democrats received a painful reminder of just how difficult it will be to turn Texas blue this year. That night, Republicans utterly demolished Democratic hopes to win the “most important special election since the midterms.” Republicans won by a whopping 16 point margin in a state legislative contest both parties viewed as a test in the run-up to November.
Democrats poured over $1 million into the contest, had former Senate and Presidential contestant Beto O’Rourke show and even Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren came down to lend a brief hand. But it was to no avail.
For Republicans and Democrats alike, it signaled the strong re-invigoration of the state GOP. Republicans had heard endlessly how the state was trending blue and even after 2016, when Trump won the state by nine points vs. Romney’s seventeen, the party won numerous contested state and Congressional races. It is understandable a party would become used to winning. But, 2018 was a wake-up call, losing two Congressional seats and a dozen legislative seats in increasingly competitive Dallas and Houston suburbs. This time, Republicans took the contest seriously.
Immediately after Republican Gary Gates secured his party’s nod the GOP coalesced behind him. Governor Greg Abbott and other top Republicans threw their support behind him, and Gates spent $1.5 million of his own money. While a significant amount of cash to be spent in an election where only 30,000 voters showed, it likely set the tone of the election.