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Democrats flip two GOP-held congressional districts in Texas

🕐 4 min read

Texas Tribune

November 6, 2018

This year, amid an uprising of anti-Trump sentiment and a surge of unprecedented early voter turnout for an off-year election, Democrats saw an opportunity to flip a handful of congressional seats from red to blue in Texas — with three seats considered especially competitive.

Democrats definitively won two seats, while Republicans narrowly led two other races Tuesday night. Elsewhere, Republicans appeared to be fending off a slew of somewhat competitive challengers, but the two Democratic wins are helping the national party as it appears poised to gain control of the U.S. House.

Democrats celebrated victories by political newcomers Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Colin Allred over long-term Republican incumbents, while the race for Texas’ Congressional District 23 favored incumbent Will Hurd over Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones. And Democrat MJ Hegar was within 2 points of incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter in Congressional District 31.

Fletcher led her opponent, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep John Culberson, by four points in the Houston area’s most competitive race this cycle. Fletcher is an attorney and political newcomer who challenged the 18-year incumbent Culberson on health care and other issues.

And Allred led Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions by seven points in the Dallas area, according to early vote returns posted by the Texas Secretary of State. Allred, 35, is a Dallas lawyer, former NFL player and political newcomer who challenged Sessions, 63, who has served in Congress since 1997 and is chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Both those races, in districts carried by Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, were seen as crucial in Democrats’ nationwide bid for a “blue wave” to reclaim a majority in the U.S. House. The outcome of a third seat will depend on Jones’ performance against Hurd.

Early, incomplete returns from the Texas Secretary of State and El Paso County showed Hurd with a 4 point lead over Jones, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Hurd, a former CIA agent from Helotes, became the first congressman to win re-election in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District in eight years. He ran as an independent Republican who has distanced himself from President Donald Trump more visibly than any other GOP member of the Texas delegation. His fame grew last year when he embarked on a road trip with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke from San Antonio to Washington, D.C.

Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, survived a five-way primary in March and a less competitive runoff in May. If elected, she would make history in the district as its first lesbian congresswoman — and as its first Filipina-American congresswoman. The Hispanic-majority district stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, covering hundreds of miles of Texas-Mexico border and vast expanses of rural West Texas.

In the 31st district, which includes Temple, Killeen, Austin’s northern suburbs and the Fort Hood military base, Democratic hopeful Hegar trailed Carter, 48 percent to 50 percent.

Hegar is a military veteran who, with a compelling personal story and fundraising prowess, has given Carter the biggest challenge of his political career since he was elected in 2002. Hegar outraised the incumbent over the summer after releasing a viral biographical ad highlighting her military service.

Carter is a senior member of the budget-writing U.S. House Appropriations Committee. He is an attorney who, before being elected to Congress, served for more than 20 years as a district court judge in Williamson County.

Elsewhere, Republicans in congressional districts appeared to be fending off well-funded challenges. Democrat Joseph Kopser trailed Republican Chip Roy in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith by 4 points, according to the Texas Secretary of State.

Kopser is an army veteran turned tech entrepreneur and a political newcomer who has consistently outraised his Republican opponent. He hoped to flip Texas’ 21st Congressional District from red to blue by running toward the center, claiming to have “voted for people from both parties.”

Roy, who emerged from a crowded GOP primary featuring 18 candidates, is a longtime political adviser to Republican officials, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. He has sought to portray Kopser as a liberal Democrat who’s out of touch with the conservative spirit of the district.

And in the race for Texas’ 25th Congressional District, Democrat Julie Oliver trailed Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Roger Williams by 7 points, according to early results posted by the Texas Secretary of State. Trump carried the district by more than 10 points in the 2016 presidential election.

Republican Dan Crenshaw also beat Democrat Todd Litton in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Poe. Litton conceded in the race after returns showed Crenshaw was up 53 percent to Litton’s 46 percent.

Harris County held its polls open an hour later than previously scheduled because of problems at polling stations earlier in the day.

“Democrats flip two GOP-held congressional districts in Texas” was first published at by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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