Texas, and the Texas Legislature, emerges from the 2012 elections looking even redder than it did before. The GOP may have lost the race for the White House. But in Texas the GOP still firmly holds the reigns of power throughout state government, and has even moved it further to the right.
Republicans lost seven seats in the Texas House, largely due to redistricting and the rising Texas Hispanic population, but they will still enjoy a commanding 95-55 majority. The Texas House will continue to be very Republican and very conservative.
In the Texas Senate, the Republicans went into election day with a 19-12 majority, hoping to pick up a seat by challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Wendy Davis in Fort Worth. Davis fought off the challenge, so the Texas Senate remains at 19-12. However, the Senate chamber will shift markedly to the right ideologically, as the five new Republican Senators are significantly more conservative than the more moderate Republicans they are replacing.
As a result of this near-supermajority status in both the Texas House and Texas Senate, Republicans will have the power to pass practically any piece of legislation, regardless of Democrat opposition. (Of course, Republicans will also receive the supermajority of the blame for unpopular decisions.)
Governor Rick Perry and the other top statewide officials were not on the ballot in 2010. But lurking in the background of the 2013 session will be the political jockeying for the 2014 elections. Perry, already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, has not ruled out yet another run (for governor or for president), frustrating a number of Republican aspirants that are eager to move up the ladder. A long list of Republican officeholders (such as Governor Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson) may spar with each other throughout the 2013 session, as they maneuver for political advantage in the 2014 campaigns to come.
In federal races, Republicans maintained their majority control over the Texas delegation in Washington. Newly elected Republican Ted Cruz will replace retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and will join sitting Republican Senator John Cornyn in the U.S. Senate. In the U.S. House, Democrats won the one hotly contested race and the Texas delegation will consist of 24 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
Texas Democrats still find themselves in the political wilderness, having not won a single statewide election in Texas since 1994. Texans gave Mitt Romney a 57%-41% victory in Texas (an even bigger margin than John McCain enjoyed in 2008), and Ted Cruz defeated Democrat candidate Paul Sadler 57%-40% for the U.S. Senate seat. So it is not clear that Texas Democrats will be able to run a truly viable candidate for a major statewide office in the 2014 or 2018 elections. However, time is on the Democrats’ side, as they continue to dominate in the urban and minority populations that are growing fastest in Texas. Republicans won only about 30% of the Hispanic vote in 2012. The longer Republicans continue to fail to attract new urban or Hispanic voters, the sooner Texas will once again become a competitive state.