Alexander Hermes, Contributing Writer
Though the presidential election received the lion’s share of media attention last Tuesday, hundreds of other races for state positions occurred as well that day, including those for seats in the U.S. Congress and in the Texas Legislature.
In the Texas Legislature, Republicans were able to hold a majority in the Senate with 19 out of 31 seats. In the House, they lost their supermajority, as seven Democrats replaced Republicans, but still maintain a majority with 95 to the Democrats’ 55.
Professors from the University of Dallas politics department either declined to comment or could not be reached for comment.
According to Dr. Matthew Wilson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University (SMU), such an outcome “reinforces the fact that, while Texas is slowly becoming somewhat more competitive between the parties, we are still a good distance away from being a genuine two-party state.”
“Republicans did, though, lose the total control of the Texas House that they had previously enjoyed with a two-thirds majority, so at least a bit more bipartisan cooperation may be necessary,” Wilson said.
Ross Hunt, vice president of Nasica Consulting, a Dallas- and Austin-based political consulting firm specializing in grassroots campaign and political strategy, and all-but-dissertation in the University of Dallas politics department, noted that competition, but also Republicans’ resilience in the face of it.
“Republican victories in the swing state House seats in Dallas County [including Linda Harper-Brown’s seat, which takes in the University of Dallas] demonstrate that Republicans have the ability to defend their hold in the urban counties, even in the face of demographic changes and a very bad year for Republicans nationwide,” Hunt said.
Budget shortfalls will be high on the agenda as the new members begin their terms, according to Dr. Cal Jillson, SMU professor and political analyst.
“As always, how to stretch available revenue across all the things state government needs to do will be the big issue facing the 2013 legislative session in Texas. In the 2011 legislature, $5.4 billion was cut out of public education. The coming legislature will have to decide whether to replace some or all of that money or, if budgets remain tight, to cut deeper.”
Hunt echoed Jillson’s emphasis on the budget and highlighted other issues the unusually large number of freshmen legislators will face, especially in light of demographic changes.
“This relatively young legislature will be faced with pressure from their conservative constituents to balance the budget without raising taxes. There is a possibility that the Senate will choose to suspend the 2/3 rule to allow conservative bills on education, abortion and other topics to come to the floor,” Hunt said.
“At the same time, Texas is not deaf to results of the 2012 election at the national level or to demographic changes at the state level, and it is likely that respect for the conservative base will be balanced with considerations of Republicans’ public image among female and Latino voters.”
Texas also elected a new U.S. senator.Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, won his first bid for the Senate, beating Paul Sadler, the Democratic challenger. He will join Republican Sen. John Cornyn in January.
According to Wilson, Cruz reflects the efforts of the Republican party to develop a deep bench of dynamic Latino leaders.
“Cruz is extremely bright and a Tea Party favorite, while bringing much-needed diversity to the GOP,” Wilson said. “I expect him to quickly become a star in the GOP caucus, very much along the lines of [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio.”
In the U.S. House, there were 36 seats up for election. Texas gained four House seats after the 2010 census, and this election was the first with its new districts. Before the election, there were 9 Democrats and 23 Republicans from Texas in the House. Of the 36 house races in Texas, 24 went Republican and 12 Democrat.
“The most noteworthy thing about the 2012 elections was that Republicans were able to hold most of their 2010 gains,” Jillson said. “Republicans still hold all of the statewide elected offices in Texas and big majorities in both houses of the Texas legislature. We will soon see what they choose to do with all of that political power and control.”
“Republicans fared very well in the state House contests of 2012. It was mathematically impossible for Republicans to maintain the supermajority that they established in the State House after the 2010 election, but they only lost three incumbents who were in districts that were drawn very much to the Democrats’ advantage,” Hunt said.
“In the end, Republicans will enter the 2013 session with 95 out of the 150 seats in the state House… less than a supermajority but still majority Republican.”