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Republicans Retain Statewide Offices, But Analyst Says Concerns Remain For GOP

(CBSDFW.COM) - Republicans continued their hold on statewide offices in Texas.

While Democrats haven't won a statewide office since 1994, some of the candidates came closer to winning Tuesday night than some Republicans expected.

In the marquee race in Texas Senate race, the Republican incumbent Ted Cruz defeated Democrat Beto O'Rourke, congressman from El Paso, by three percentage points, 51 to 48 percent.

But that wasn't the only race in which Republicans lost by single digits: Lt. Governor Dan Patrick beat Democrat Mike Collier by five points, and Attorney General Ken Paxton beat Democrat Justin Nelson by four points.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller defeated Democrat Kim Olson by five points, and Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick won re-election by nine points.

During the last midterm election in 2014, Republicans won their statewide offices by at least 19 points.

Turnout four years ago was far lower than this year.

Matthew Wilson, SMU Political Science Professor says, "It absolutely was a wake-up call. I think Republicans now realize they cannot take Texas statewide races for granted, that Democrats can compete, that if they mobilize their voters, that Democrats can be within a few points of Republican candidates, right now."

Gov. Greg Abbott beat Democrat Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County Sheriff, by 14 points, the largest margin of victory for a statewide office this year.

Some Republicans say O'Rourke's Senate campaign blunted some of their statewide margins calling it the "Beto bump."

In Dallas County, Democrats made some solid gains.

Newcomer Colin Allred ousted longtime Republican Congressman Pete Sessions in the 32nd Congressional District 52 to 46 percent.

Former State District Judge John Creuzot handily defeated Republican Faith Johnson, who Gov. Abbott appointed nearly two years ago to replace Susan Hawk, who resigned.

Republicans in Dallas County also lost a number of state legislative races, including State Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas, State Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving and State Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie.

There were only two Republicans whose districts are entirely in Dallas County who held onto their seats: State Rep. Morgan Meyer of Dallas, who retained his seat by 440 votes, and State Rep. Angie Chen Button of Richardson, who won by two percentage points.

But even some districts close to Dallas in the northern suburbs felt the impact this election. They include three State House Districts now held by Republicans.

In District 65, Republican Ron Simmons of Carrollton in Denton County lost to his Democrat challenger Michelle Beckley by two percentage points.

In District 66, Republican Matt Shaheen of Plano beat Democrat Sharon Hirsch by fewer than 400 votes, and in District 67, Jeff Leach of Plano beat Democrat Sarah Depew by two percentage points.

Rep. Leach said he is grateful for his victory and that he is focused on two main priorities: improving public education -- including giving teachers a raise -- and property tax reform. He said he is not interested in any divisive issues.

Two years ago, Leach, Shaheen, and Simmons each won re-election with more comfortable margins.

In State Senate District 8 in Collin County and a small part of Dallas County, Republican Angela Paxton, wife of Attorney General Ken Paxton, won the open seat by defeating Democrat Mark Phariss by two percentage points.

In 2014, no Democrat ran for the State Senate District 8 seat.

In the 24th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Kenny Marchant won re-election because of a sizable margin of votes in the Tarrant County portion of his district. He lost in both the Dallas and Denton County portions of his district.

Two years ago, Marchant won in each county in his district.

Wilson said Republicans have to work to do. "I think it's really important for Republicans to re-solidify their ties to Republican-leaning folks in Collin County, in Denton County, in the suburban counties around the state because a lot of relatively affluent voters have moved into Texas from out of state."

But he and a conservative activist said that individual Republican legislators should not abandon their principles, but instead, reinforce them to voters.

Tarrant County remains the state's largest Republican county, but there were a couple of cracks.

In the U.S. Senate race, O'Rourke earned nearly four thousand more votes than Cruz in Tarrant County.

Patrick won by three percentage points, and Paxton won by just one percentage point.

Republican Konni Burton lost the State Senate District 10 seat to Democrat Beverly Powell.

Burton won the swing seat in 2014, which had been held by Democrat Wendy Davis before she ran unsuccessfully for Governor.

But all other Republicans in Tarrant County won re-election for their State House and Senate seats.

In Congressional District 6, Republican Ron Wright, who had been Tarrant County Tax Collector, won the seat held by Republican Joe Barton, who retired.

But Wright was able to carry the district by winning the portions in Ellis and Navarro counties.

Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, who out-raised Wright, won the portion of the district in Tarrant County.

Barton won each county in his district two years ago.

Wilson said, "Tarrant County is moving toward two party competitiveness and it's about the only urban county left in the state where Republicans have a significant stronghold. They will maintain a presence in Tarrant County but they can't take it for granted."

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