Texas Democrats needed to win nine districts to control the Texas House of Representatives, and, boy, did they make an effort—a whopping $12 million injection of campaign funds aimed at turning out the vote, statewide—but unfortunately for them it wasn’t enough to gain any more control of our state government.
The Republican party has controlled the state House since 2002, and the state Senate since the 1990s, and as the votes were tallied up on Tuesday night, it gradually became clear that they are going to continue to control it when the Lege convenes in Austin come January.
Here’s a look at how the state House stayed red in 2020.
A few key seats made this a reality.
While Texas Republicans tried to win back 12 Democratic seats (including two locally: HD-132 and HD-135), Texas Democrats aimed at flipping 22 GOP-held seats (including five locally: HD-126, HD-129, HD-133, HD-134 and HD-138). In the end, Texas Republicans held on to win again.
In fact, the only seat that the Dems seem to have managed to flip was here in Houston. HD-134 belonged to State Rep. Sarah Davis, a moderate Republican (so moderate that Planned Parenthood endorsed her) repping the West U area, who has walked the line between the two parties and served five terms so far. Davis hasn't conceded yet, but her Democratic challenger Ann Johnson is ahead 53.3 percent to Davis's 46.6 percent, a healthy lead in that likely means Davis will be conceding in a bit.
Another interesting tidbit: The only seat that the GOP managed to flip red was actually in our region, too. That was HD-132, which Mike Schofield (R) won over incumbent Gina Calanni (D) whose district includes parts of Katy and Cypress. What makes this one even more interesting? Schofield himself was unseated by Calanni back in 2018, so this is like a political game of musical chairs with just two players, essentially.
Highlights among our other local races for state Lege seats:
HD-126: Incumbent Sam Harless (R) held off incumbent Natali Hurtado (D) in this suburban district on the north side of town.
HD-129: Incumbent Dennis Paul (R) held off Kayla Alix (D) in the district on the south side that includes parts of Friendswood, La Porte, Seabrook, and Pearland.
HD-133: Incumbent Jim Murphy (R) held off Sandra Moore (D) in the district on the west side running up the I-10 corridor and including sections of Memorial and Bunker Hill.
HD-135: Incumbent Jon E. Ronsenthal (D) edged out Justin Ray (R) in the northwestern district that includes sections of Jersey Village and other 'burbs along U.S. 290.
HD-138: Lacey Hull (R) edged out Akilah Bacy (D) in another northwestern district sliced between I-10 and 290 and including neighborhoods near Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
What does this mean for Texas?
Well, for one thing, it will likely have an impact on redistricting for the state’s 38 or 39 U.S. House seats, the Texas Senate, and Texas House of Representatives. Once every 10 years the party majority in the state Senate and House have the chance to redraw congressional districts, and 2021 (ding ding ding) is a redistricting year. That means Republicans will be able to redraw the district maps to their liking and have more influence when it comes to shaping the future of Texas politics. Democrats also had no seat at the table during the last redistricting in 2011, which gave us such fantastical local districts as "anglerfish" and "boa constrictor mid-meal."
Republicans will also get a chance to name the next House speaker. You may recall that the current speaker, State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R), was caught on tape talking smack about fellow members of the House (including members of his own party) just over a year ago, and though he was called to resign by numerous members of the state Lege (including in his own party), has not done so. Bonnen has, however, opted not to seek reelection in 2020. That leaves his seat—and the powerful position of state House Speaker—up for grabs. Houston’s own Senfronia Thompson was the first among the Texas House to put herself up for the position, on October 30—perhaps on the hopes that the “blue wave” so long predicted in the state would wash into the state House—although now her bid is a long-shot since the powerful gig will likely go to a Republican.
Also, considering we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, Republicans—who control all of our state government—will certainly have more influence on the policies we adopt to tackle Covid-19, for better or worse. (Your take on which this will be probably depends on which way you voted.)
On the upside (for those who enjoy political theater), this does mean that it will be business as usual when the Lege convenes in Austin on January 12, 2021, because as we've seen in years past state lawmakers can always be counted on to cook up plenty of crazy bills proposed and other legislative hijinks for their meetup, and the 87th Biennial Texas Legislative Session shouldn't prove to be an exception to that rule.