The results of races for the Texas House and Senate won’t change the balance of power in Austin: Republicans remain firmly in control of both chambers. But a few seats changed hands, and redistricting means that each party had a better shot at some seats than they otherwise would have. And a few races remain to be decided.
Mark Jones, a fellow in political science with the Baker Institute and a professor in the department of political science at Rice University, discussed the latest with Texas Standard. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: In the Texas Senate, 18 of its 31 members are Republicans. What was at stake in yesterday’s contests?
Mark Jones: Well, in the Senate, we were looking at pretty much only one seat in play, in SD 27, because of redistricting. Republicans were certain to increase their number of seats from 18 to 19. Looks like they’re not going to get [the SD 27 seat], although there’ll be a recount. So we’re looking at another legislative session where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has even more support, 19-12, and he no longer has the sort of quasi disloyal Republican, at least disloyal to him – Kel Seliger is one of those Republicans [who did not seek re-election]. So I think we’re looking at a Texas Senate that is going to be even more tightly controlled by Republicans and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Let’s dig into the Senate District 27 race. It’s an open seat formerly held by conservative Democrat Eddie Lucio Jr. Republican Adam Hinojosa faced off against Democrat Morgan LaMantia here. Why was this race so important? And what do we know about results so far?
It was important because Eddie Lucio Jr., while he was a Democrat, was the most conservative Democrat in the Texas Senate. And so he often tended to vote with Lt. Gov. Patrick on many key issues, abortion being one of them. This was a race that in a normal year, a Democrat should have had a pretty easy ability to win. But because of these negative national wins, it became more competitive. And LaMantia has a .3% lead that’s a little less than 600 votes. But given the nature of electronic voting that we have, it’s unlikely to change, although we may have to wait a week or two in terms of actually formally ratifying LaMantia’s victory. Assuming she takes office, that’s probably not going to affect the balance of power because Republicans were able to get that extra Senate seat through redistricting where they redistricted Beverly Powell out of her seat up in Dallas.
» TEXAS ELECTION 2022: See election results for statewide and congressional races
In the Texas House, only a handful of seats were really competitive this year. Let’s talk about House District 118, where John Lujan was running to keep a seat he just won in a special election. He was the only Republican state House member in any real danger. And it looks as though he has won in a very close race.
Right. John Lujan won in a special election, and he’s defeated Frank Ramirez by 4%. And that was important for Republicans. In the redistricting cycle, Republicans went into it knowing they weren’t going to be able to increase their share too much from 85 seats. But they wanted to make sure they protected incumbents like Lujan, and they did so.
Well, in Collin County, Democrat Mihaela Plesa has declared victory in her race for the open [District] 70 seat formerly held by Republican Scott Sanford, who did not seek reelection. Is this an upset victory for Democrats?
No, that was one of the districts that was going to be a toss-up with Plesa versus Jamee Jolly. It was slightly designed to favor Democrats, and Democrats were able to take control of it. Overall, though, that was a seat I think we expected to go Democratic.
Some of the other House races you were watching are clustered in South Texas, with Democratic incumbents defending their seats, and a few open seats, too. What did we see in South Texas yesterday? And does it mirror what happened in the big congressional races there with Republicans gaining some strength in this traditionally Democratic part of the state?
Well, by and large, the Democratic incumbents – people like Oscar Longoria in Mission, Bobby Guerra in Mission, Eddie Morales Jr. in Eagle Pass and Abel Herrero in Corpus Christi – all won, and won by decent margins. So overall, Republicans made some inroads. They won House District 37 down in Hargrave, and that’s Hidalgo County where Janie Lopez defeated Luis Villarreal. But overall, Democrats held their own in South Texas, just as they did in the congressional races, holding on to Congressional District 28 with Henry Cuellar and 34 with Vicente Gonzalez and only losing District 15 where Monica De La Cruz defeated Michelle Vallejo in a district that was designed to be favorable for Republicans in a good GOP year.