Although Beto O’Rourke lost a tight race to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, his coattails and get-out-the-vote effort produced some significant Democratic victories in Tuesday’s midterm elections, including Democrat Beverly Powell’s defeat of incumbent Konni Burton for the State Senate District 10 seat.
Senate District 10, spanning across a large swath of Tarrant County, is regarded as the only swing Senate district in the state and the race between Powell and Burton was a marquee race in this year’s midterms.
Burton defeated Democrat Libby Willis to win the seat that was vacated by Democrat Wendy Davis in 2014 to run for governor. Davis defeated Republican Kim Brimer in 2008 and held off Republican Shelton Mark Shelton four years later in a close contest.
Powell defeated Burton 51 percent to 48 percent with more than 95 percent of votes counted in an election that had voter turnout in Tarrant County of 54.5 percent.
Democratic turnout in Tarrant County was high but Republicans turned out in even larger numbers to defend Congressional, state and local seats. Republicans cast 226,769 votes or 53.9 percent to Democrats’ 191,239 or 45.5 percent.
However, signs of change in the largest urban Republican county in the nation were evident as Democrats outperformed Republicans in Tarrant County in several key races, including the U.S. Senate race, with O’Rourke narrowly outpolling Cruz by about 3,000 votes.
Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez also captured about 9,000 more votes in Tarrant County than Ron Wright for the open 6th Congressional District seat despite Wright’s name recognition advantage as Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector. Wright won the seat by capturing large vote margins in Ellis and Navarro counties, which are also part of the district that represented by retiring Congressman Joe Barton of Ennis, who was caught up in an internet sex scandal
Burton’s loss was a blow for Empower Texans, a conservative organization supported by several West Texas oil billionaires who support an agenda that includes outlawing abortion in Texas, property tax reform, school vouchers and legislation dictating bathroom use for transgender Texans.
Empower Texans’ also endorsed Wright as well as Texas House incumbents Jonathan Stickland, Matt Krause, Tony Tinderholt and Bill Zedler, all of Tarrant County. State Sen. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills was also re-elected with the endorsement of Empower Texans.
Powell, a businesswoman and long-time member of the Burleson school board, campaigned on a platform of revamping the state school finance system to improve public school.
In the last three months of the campaign, Burton outraised Powell more than 2 to 1, with Burton reporting raising more than $1 million and Powell reporting campaign contributions of $440,000.
Burton spent heavily on attack ads, accusing Powell of racking up tax liens for failing to pay her taxes.
Powell countered that her taxes were paid in full but acknowledged that she had to make tough decisions to keep her business afloat during economic downturns.