Texas Gov. Greg Abbott drove to a re-election victory in Tuesday’s midterm elections, dealing another blow to Democrat efforts to seize control of the longtime Republican stronghold.
Abbott defeated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 11 percentage points in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results from The Associated Press, just about two points fewer than the incumbent governor won in 2018.
The result comes as many Democrats have eyed Texas in recent years in hopes of flipping a state that has been Republican-dominated for decades. Democrats have pointed to changing demographics in the states as reasons for optimism, noting the growing proportion of Hispanic voters and urban areas that have seen an influx of new residents from across the country.
O’Rourke has twice been commissioned to color Texas blue in statewide elections, first running against incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm election. O’Rourke came close to realizing the dream, narrowly losing to Cruz, albeit in a year in which the climate was favorable for the Democrats.
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But the optimism inspired by that close 2018 decision quickly fizzled out last week, as O’Rourke undercut his Senate bid in virtually every region of the state.
O’Rourke scored big victories in the state’s southwestern frontier counties in 2018, earning 72% of the vote in Maverick County, 71% in Dimmitt, 71% in Webb, 77% in Starr, and 69% in Hidalgo. The numbers were much better than his performance against Abbott in 2022, with O’Rourke winning just those counties at 58%, 61%, 61%, 58%, and 59%, respectively. Abbott even flipped Zapata County, which O’Rourke won in 2018 with 63% of the vote, with 53% of voters there choosing the incumbent governor.
Minor declines were also prevalent in the state’s urban Democratic strongholds, O’Rourke said. The Democratic nominee received 60% of the 2018 vote in San Antonio’s Bexar County, 57% and 74% in Austin’s Hays and Travis Counties, 56% and 58% in Houston’s Fort Bend and Harris Counties, and 66% in Dallas County. But in 2022, O’Rourke could only win 57%, 55%, 73%, 52%, 54%, and 63%, respectively.
Worse still for O’Rourke, voter turnout in the state’s urban areas has declined significantly since 2018, denying the Democratic nominee a crucial opportunity to garner large margins in raw votes. Harris County in Houston saw turnout fall nearly 10%, while Dallas County saw turnout fall about 15%, indicating a potential lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee.
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Abbott’s win was convincing enough for O’Rourke to call the governor and abandon the race Tuesday night, once again shattering Democrats’ dreams of blueprinting Texas.
“Tonight the Texans sent out a message that they want to keep Texas as a beacon of opportunity that we’ve provided for the last eight years,” Abbott said after the win.