Democrats’ hopes of flipping Texas again fall short as Republicans dominate the state’s 2020 elections

Some thought it might happen as early as 2014 — and then 2016, and, of course, in 2018.

When all those elections proved disappointing, Texas Democrats said 2020 would be the year, given record voter turnout, a once-in-a-century pandemic that grew out of control under Republican leadership and a highly controversial president.

But 2020 proved another disappointment for the state’s minority party as Republicans remained dominant in Texas, appearing poised to maintain victories in all statewide offices and both chambers of the Legislature. In what has become a familiar refrain, Texas Democrats pointed to 2020’s narrow losses as symbolic victories — signs that the state will one day change in their favor.

Though the margins in the presidential race were narrower than they have been in years, Democrats underperformed the high expectations they had set for themselves, particularly in a hotly contested battle for dominance in the Texas House. And a number of potential pickups for Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives seemed increasingly unlikely as the night wore on.

With his reelection still uncertain, Donald Trump carried Texas on Tuesday. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Republican John Cornyn handily won reelection to his seat in the U.S. Senate, soaring past combat veteran MJ Hegar to notch a victory despite a late Democratic spending blitz on her behalf. Republicans held big leads in other statewide races for Railroad Commission, Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.

And the contest some in-state operatives had focused on as Democrats’ best hope — the battle for a majority in the Texas House — appeared to end with a narrow victory for Republicans, leaving intact the party’s advantage in the chamber.

As has become habit, Texas Democrats described their losses on Tuesday not as disappointments but as hopeful omens for next time.

“With every election, we’re getting one step closer to that change,” said Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas.

“Although we came up short,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said of the U.S. Senate race, “I am hopeful because we are marching towards victory.”https://apps.texastribune.org/features/2020/general-election-results/embeds/internal/in_articles/?contest=president&contest=us-senate-class-2

“The work we did will move our state forward for years to come,” Hegar said.

Republicans, meanwhile, were not shy about celebrating their wins.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who was not on the ballot himself but had been deeply involved in Texas House races, even knocking on doors over the last few weeks, celebrated on Twitter: “Texas DID stay Red.”

Earlier this week, he had made a prescient, if provocative statement: “Democrats’ dreams will be crushed again.”

Abbott’s top political strategist, Dave Carney, was blunter in an interview late Tuesday night. He said Democrats were massively underperforming expectations because “they buy their own bullshit.”

“Here’s the best standard operating procedure for any campaign: Stop bragging, do your work and then you can gloat afterward,” Carney said, contrasting that approach with “bragging about what’s gonna happen in the future and being embarrassed.”

“Why anybody would believe what these liars would say to them again is beyond belief,” Carney added. “How many cycles in a row” do they claim Texas will turn blue? “It’s crazy.”