AUSTIN, Texas – The enthusiasm surrounding the Senate race in Texas could trickle down to congressional races, which may boost voter turnout in the Lone Star state and fuel momentum for both parties, political experts say.
The Senate race in Texas has been grabbing headlines for weeks as Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke mounted a surprisingly strong campaign in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office since 1994. The El Paso congressman has out-raised the Republican incumbent, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican darling who ran for president in 2016, in the second quarter of 2018, raising $10.4 million to Cruz’s $4.6 million.
Political experts say that energy will fuel congressional races.
“It’s almost certainly going to help candidates in the congressional level, at the state legislative level, if there’s a boost in Democratic turnout, which we think there might be,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Democrats need to flip at least 24 seats to regain control the House. They’re eyeing key races in the Lone Star State, including those in the 7th, 23rd, 31st, and 32nd congressional districts where Rep. John Culberson, Rep. Will Hurd, Rep. John Carter, and Rep. Pete Sessions, respectively, are trying to keep their seats.
"All four...are Republican incumbents that, with the exception of Hurd – who's in a competitive district – people would've thought [were] relatively safe a few years ago,” Henson said. “But, given the environment, all four are seeing much more of a challenge."
For the first time in over two decades, Democrats are running in all of Texas’ 36 congressional districts. Democrats say that anger against President Trump’s policies could help the party.
“Because of this unprecedented amount of energy, the energy of Beto leading our ticket, the energy of folks wanting to fight back against Donald Trump…we have really impressive candidates up and down the ballot,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.
But Republicans also say that enthusiasm for the Senate race is trickling down to their party.
“Hopefully, what we will see is a lot of excitement on our side, with people realizing that if they stay home and don’t show up and don’t turn out to vote that they do risk losing,” said James Dickey, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
Dickey said they’re directing many of their resources to help candidates in competitive races, including Culberson, Hurd, and Sessions.
Still, he pointed to the numbers in the March primary as proof of the party’s strength. About 1.5 million Republicans voted while only 1 million Democrats did.
“As long as our voters, turn out, we’ll have a resounding victory,” Dickey said, “We need to keep that excitement and energy going.”