WASHINGTON (CIRCA) - The Texas Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been one of the most-watched races in the 2018 midterms, with the Republican senator’s bid for re-election ending up an unexpectedly close race.
Cruz found an aggressive opponent in O’Rourke. The Democratic challenger fired up his base, but also reached out across party lines. O’Rourke visited all 254 Texas counties, including deeply red areas, saying Texans “cannot be too Republican, too Democrat or too much of a non-voter” to vote for him.
After pledging to not accept campaign contributions from political action committees, O’Rourke received donations from people across the country. The national spotlight was mirrored in the political energy statewide. Enthusiasm surrounding the candidate sparked speculation that Texas might be ready to turn “purple.”
Early voter turnout surpassed that seen in the 2014 midterms, in a state that usually sees the lowest voter turnout nationwide. Bipartisan political energy has seemingly spurred people who usually sit out elections to the polls.
It could be a sign of a change in the Lone Star State. According to U.S. Census data, Texas has the most significant population growth in the country, adding 3 million residents since 2010. Many of those are Latinos, and voter advocacy groups have keyed on that fact. The national nonprofit Voto Latino helped 52,000 Texans register to vote this election season.
But Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, and a booming population with increasingly progressive values may not be enough to shift the tide in the traditionally red state. FiveThirtyEight, a website that predicts political outcomes, gave Cruz a 78.6 percent chance of winning.
“We are going to win this election, and I’ll tell you how I know,” Cruz said at a recent rally in Houston. “Because this is Texas.”