Texas Outlook After the 2020 General Election

05 November 2020 Publication
Authors: Amy Beard Craig P. Chick

The 2020 General Election season brought an extra week of voting during a pandemic, record voter turnout and outside groups spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to turn Texas blue. Texas voter turnout exceeded 11 million votes, compared to 8.9 million votes in 2016. The end result appears to be the status quo and a false alarm for Democrats. We now know a higher voter turnout does not always translate into a Democratic win. Texas Republicans maintained victories in all statewide offices by a margin of 8 to 10 points and continue their control of both legislative chambers. U.S. Senator John Cornyn beat challenger MJ Hegar by more than 10 points.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had targeted 10 Republican-held seats but it appears the count remains at 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats in Congress.  In the Texas House, Republicans continue to control with an unchanged margin of 83 – 67.  The Texas Senate flipped a historically Democratic seat back to the Democrats costing the Republicans their 19 vote majority.  

At the top of the ticket, President Trump won Texas 52% - 46% over Vice President Biden. Biden performed well in the larger suburban counties, but massively underperformed in rural Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, a normally Democratic stronghold. Support for President Trump grew in all four Rio Grande Valley counties to mid-40%. Starr County showed the highest percentage of increase in support for Trump, where he secured 47% of votes—an increase of 28% over 2016. Trump also won Zapata County, which runs just north of the Rio Grande Valley and along the Mexico border. In the last two presidential elections in Zapata County, Clinton won by 33% and Obama won by 43%.

Even with the state increasing its registered voters by 1.85 million during the last four years, Texas is still big, rural and red. Biden outperformed Hillary Clinton by 378,000 votes in the five largest counties (Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis) but still lost the state by 657,000 votes.  

Texas Senate makeup – 18 Republican to 13 Democrats

Senate District 19 flipped back to the Democrats, breaking the 19 vote majority in the Texas Senate. Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) won the seat by 4 points defeating Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton). The 19 vote majority was important because it is the amount of votes needed in order to bring a bill up for full debate on the Senate floor. In 2015, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick orchestrated the rule change lowering the long-standing vote threshold from 21 to 19. It is now rumored, Patrick may attempt to further reduce the threshold to 16 votes this legislative session.

Texas House makeup – 83 Republican to 67 Democrats

Democrats appeared poised to flip the lower chamber for the first time since 2001. However, the incomplete returns appear to keep the split at the same mark, 83-67, the same as it was during the 2019 legislative session.

Travis County remains blue, while Dallas County’s two Republican incumbents appear to have held onto their seats. Collin and Tarrant County Republican incumbents beat out their Democratic challengers by similar margins as 2018. In Houston, Democratic challenger Ann Johnson beat out moderate Republican Sarah Davis 52% to 48%. In a rematch from 2018, former Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Katy) continues to hold his edge over Rep. Gina Calanni (D-Katy).

Republicans also won in four open-seat races targeted by Democrats in their hopes to flip the nine Texas House seats they needed to win a majority.

The Race for Texas House Speaker

The urban versus rural fight seemed to be reflected in the makeup of the initial candidates for Speaker. Prior to election night, the following members had declared their candidacy for Speaker:

  • Trent Ashby (R)
  • Geanie Morrison (R)
  • Chris Paddie (R)
  • Dade Phelan (R)
  • John Cyrier (R)
  • Oscar Longoria (D)
  • Trey Martinez Fischer (D)
  • Joe Moody (D)
  • Senfronia Thompson (D)

With Republicans maintaining their majority in the Texas House, the next Speaker will surely be Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) who announced the day after the election that he has a supermajority of the Republican caucus and a broad coalition of Democrats. Phelan stated his transition team would be in place by next week.  Shortly after his announcement Phelan tweeted a list of 83 bipartisan members in support of his speaker candidacy.

In the end, Republicans retain trifecta control of Texas state government and face what may be their toughest legislative session in more than a decade. Issues before the Legislature include reconciling a severely strained budget due to COVID-19 and the once every ten years, highly partisan, redistricting process.

Legislative dates of interest

Prefiling of bills begins on Monday, November 9, 2020. The 87th legislative session begins on January 12, 2021.

For a complete list of 2020 General Election results visit the Texas Secretary of State.

Authors

Amy Beard

Public Affairs Advisor Sr

Craig P. Chick

Director, Public Affairs

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