The voting is over – early voting, that is. If you intend to cast your ballot, Tuesday’s the final day: Election Day in Texas, and across the nation, for what has been characterized as one of the most consequential midterms in recent memory.
History suggests the midterms are a referendum on the party in power. And as Democrats try to retain control at the national level – focusing on issues such as abortion, gun safety, the Jan. 6 insurrection, election denial and voting rights – in Texas, the calculus is different, with Republicans in control of the levers of political power and Democratic support in South Texas being closely watched nationwide after Republican inroads in 2020.
What should we be paying closest attention to on election night in Texas? Rebecca Deen, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington, joined The Texas Standard to share five things we should be watching on Tuesday:
1. The governor’s race
It will be interesting to see whether Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke will be able to overcome the pretty substantial deficit he’s got in the polls and do better than expected against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, Deen said.
“The things that are affecting the governor’s race in part are the national trends affecting Democrats across the country: high inflation rates, general dissatisfaction with the party in the presidency,” she said. “But then you also have things that are unique to the state. Governor Abbott has done a good job over the last several months of appealing to the things that his base voters care about. And, you know, turnout in the early voting period was relatively low, compared with the last election.”
2. The attorney general’s race
Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton “has had longstanding legal woes himself that haven’t seemed to hurt him much,” Deen said. “And so it’ll be interesting to see what the final outcome of that race will be” with a tight battle against Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza.
3. State Board of Education races
The State Board of Education, the body that controls the curriculum standards for public education across the state, is currently reviewing the history curriculum.
“We’ve got decades of examples of contentious curriculum fights, and this round is no different,” Deen said. “And there were a couple of Republican incumbents who either didn’t run or who lost to more conservative opponents. So I’ll be curious to see what that looks like statewide.”
4. The impact of redistricting
It’s the first election since redistricting in Texas, and Deen said she’ll specifically be watching for the outcomes of districts that were the focus of lawsuits, in addition to the three congressional races down in the Valley, one of which was affected by redistricting.
“That’s a part of the state where the Republican Party has put a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s a place where former President Trump did well in the last cycle. And, you know, I’m just very interested to see if Republicans are able to pick up any of the three races where they’re buying quite well.”
5. Voter turnout
Turnout so far has been low – something Deen said she didn’t necessarily expect, given some of the really important events that have happened over the last couple of years at the national level, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but also at the local level with school shootings.
“One thing we don’t know well is the nature of people who are not habitual voters – people who just don’t vote regularly,” Deen said. “Some of that is apathy; they’re just, you know, sort of sick and tired. Some of it is frustration … And some of it is just general, you know, disinterest in the political system in general. Let’s face it: Everyday people have a whole lot on their plate from a day-to-day basis. But we just don’t know enough about those nonvoters. They’re hard to reach.”