Midterms 2018

What Do the 2018 Midterm Results Mean for Houston?

The low-down on what happened last night.

By Dianna Wray November 7, 2018

Image: Daniel Kramer

After an intense election night which saw record-breaking voter turnout in Houston, Harris County, Texas, and across the country, the final numbers are in.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke did well in Houston, but he failed to pull off the true upset many had been hoping to see. It was a hell of a race, and one that ended in a dead heat, but Cruz ultimately pulled ahead and hung onto his seat, winning 50.9 percent to 48.3 percent. All things considered, O’Rourke pulled off a remarkable feat with this race. A year ago the idea of a Democrat former-punk rocker making Cruz, of all people, sweat in the lead-up to Election Day would have been laughable, but that’s exactly what happened.

From there, the rampant Beto-ism and frustration with President Donald Trump that led so many liberals to show up at the polls—and that likely led a comparable number of conservatives to show up to vote them down here in Texas—did have some trickle-down effects.  

U.S. Rep. John Culberson lost his seat in District 7—an area that has been solidly Republican since President George H.W. Bush was first elected to Congress back in 1966—to Democratic challenger Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who won with 52.3 percent of the vote.

Over in District 29, Democrat Sylvia Garcia became the first Latina woman from Texas elected to Congress, winning 75.1 percent of the vote in her bid to replace retiring Rep. Gene Green. This district was actually created back in the 1990s in the hopes that voters would send a Latinx person to Congress, and now it's happened.

Meanwhile, the surge of people voting Democrat hit the county positions hard. Despite his remarkable performance during Harvey last year, Ed Emmett was ousted as Harris County Judge in favor of Democrat challenger Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old who was in her first race for public office. This one was a shock, since Emmett is widely respected and liked on both sides of the fence, and worked through Harvey after having reportedly suffered a heart attack before the storm. But it looks like straight-ticket voters didn't venture far enough down the ballot to back Emmett, so now Hidalgo, a Columbian immigrant and Stanford grad, is about to head up the third largest county in the country.

It also looks like former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia may have won his bid to become County Commissioner for Precinct 2, besting the incumbent Jack Morman, albeit only by the thinnest of margins. If that win holds as the final votes are tallied, the Democrats will have a majority on the court. Plus, Marilyn Burgess beat District Clerk Chris Daniel and Dylan Osborne edged County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, with both wins attributed to the "blue wave" in the county.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart has also been voted out. This could be due to straight-ticket voting (this was the last Texas election where straight-ticket voting will be an option), and it may have been due to enthusiasm for Beto, but Stanart has also been a controversial figure in his own right. Between how he handled gay marriage being legalized back in 2015 (spoiler alert: he didn't handle it well) and the voter roll purges and other shenanigans in the lead-up to the midterms, there were plenty of reasons for voters to opt not to back him. 

On the judicial front, Harris County District Judge Steve Kirkland didn't secure a victory in his bid for place 2 on the Texas Supreme Court, but he did respectably well, garnering 45 percent of the vote. But in Harris County, there was another reckoning, with voters ousting all 23 of the seats on the district bench that were up for grabs, including the 15 Republican misdemeanor judges that are at the heart of Harris County's controversial cash bail system and who have repeatedly urged the county to continue fighting a pricey federal lawsuit over that system, despite the fact that it has cost millions and forces those who can't pay bail to stay in jail over minor crimes. So they've been voted out as well. 

The blue wave didn’t reach the governor’s race: Gov. Greg Abbott easily defeated Lupe Valdez, and Houston’s own Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also retained his office. State Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton came closer to losing than he probably expected, despite the indictment and the other scandals he’s faced since he was elected to the position back in 2014. He ultimately hung on, but it was close.

When it came to the city's propositions, things played out as expected. Proposition A, which will ensure that the drainage fee created by the Houston City Council only goes to fund ReBuild Houston, was easily approved, as expected. 

Voters also approved the more controversial charter amendment, Proposition B. Prop B amends the city’s charter to require the city to pay Houston firefighters and police officers on the same scale. 

Turner asked City Council to allow him to retain a law firm to fight this thing out in court a week before the election, so this most certainly won’t be the last word on the matter.  

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