In Texas, Ted Cruz narrowly maintained his seat in the U.S. Senate, successfully fending off grassroots Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke in a shockingly close race for a historically red state. The running theme amongst supporters for both parties Tuesday, however, was the record-breaking voter turnout for Texas statewide.
According to Houston newspaper Chron, Texas has ranked last-place in voter turnout among the fifty states for the past three midterm elections—a frequent talking point for O’Rourke on the campaign trail that he hoped to change. Although O’Rourke may have lost the election, he succeeded in electrifying the Texas electorate; the Texas Tribune reported that early voting alone this year in Texas surpassed the total statewide turnout in the 2014 midterms. Texan voters, and Democratic voters in particularly, showed up in a surge Tuesday, with over 6.8 million votes cast, far surpassing the 4.7 million midterm turnout four years ago. Though O’Rourke’s voter base was not enough to give Texas Democrats a statewide victory, which would have been their first in 24 years, according to Dallas News, his grassroots campaign clearly contributed to this massive surge in the state’s overall voting turnout.
SESP junior Kelsey Morton voted for the first time by mail-in with an optimistic view the value of her ballot.
“I honestly never believed my vote would matter in Texas. This election may be the only time I feel like my vote truly matters.”
Weinberg freshman Noah Scantlebury was also excited to vote for the first time in Texas. Similar to Morton, Scantlebury emphasized the significance of this election.
“This was election held a lot more weight just in how the public was going to respond to a lot of the events that are going on, a lot of the social issues,” Scantlebury said.
Morton expressed her passionate support for O’Rourke, citing his optimism and dedication as one of the main factors inspiring her to vote for him. “Ted Cruz cares about the here and now. Beto cares about the future.”
“We hear about Beto O’Rourke, who’s literally taken the entire state and country by storm,” Scantlebury said. “This election was one everyone was waiting for and people were surprised by the results, from what I’m hearing back home.”
Medill Professor Tim Franklin thought the election was as much about Trump as it was about Cruz and O’Rourke.
“This whole election has turned into a referendum on President Trump,” he observed, citing immigration as a key issue motivating many Texas voters to turn up.
Regarding Trump’s rhetoric around immigration, particularly in recent weeks, Franklin noted that “the President was able to mobilize his base” in the southern states, although “it appears that the President’s rhetoric [around immigration] may have hurt Ted Cruz” in urban areas.
Regarding the new sense of engagement among voters, Franklin said the electorate was “electrified,” particularly among women and young voters.
“Folks are going to be very engaged...make no mistake, the 2020 presidential campaign starts tomorrow,” Franklin said.
Beto O'Rourke on call to Ted Cruz:— NBC News (@NBCNews) 7 de noviembre de 2018
"If there's anything we can do to help him in his position of public trust to ensure that Texas helps to lead this country in a way that brings us back together around the big things we want to achieve... I want to work with him." pic.twitter.com/Ig6U8gQaAL