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OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Republicans dominate elections statewide

AUSTIN — Winners in the Nov. 4 general election on the whole proved that incumbency and/or running as a Republican continue to be assets when Texas voters hit the polls.

Democrats Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte lost by wide margins to Republicans Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. In the Abbott-Davis race, the spread was 20 points: 59 to 39 percent. Similarly, the spread in the Patrick-Van de Putte race was 19 points: 58 to 39 percent.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, rebuffed Democratic challenger David Alameel, a Dallas businessman, by a 27 percent margin or 2.85 million votes to Alameel’s 1.59 million.

Incumbents, regardless of party, exacted a near sweep in races for congressional seats. The exception was incumbent freshman U.S. Rep. Pete P. Gallego, D-Alpine, who lost massive Congressional District 23 stretching from El Paso to San Antonio by two percentage points (about 2,500 votes) to Republican Will Hurd of San Antonio.

Republicans to head agencies

In the races to head state agencies, Republican state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney was elected attorney general, to replace Greg Abbott as the state’s chief law enforcement officer. Paxton, of McKinney, received nearly 59 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Sam Houston of Houston, who received 38 percent. Farmer and Republican state Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy in the race to succeed Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, beat Houston-area accountant and Democrat Mike Collier by a margin of 20 points: 58 percent to 38 percent. Republican Fort Worth attorney George P. Bush in the race to succeed Jerry Patterson as land commissioner beat Democratic opponent John Cook by a 25-point margin, 60 percent to 35 percent.

Former state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, won the race to succeed Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, over Cleburne farmer and Democrat Jim Hogan by 20 points, 58 percent to 38 percent. Petroleum engineer Ryan Sitton, a Friendswood Republican, won a seat on the oil and gas regulating Texas Railroad Commission, beating Democratic opponent Steve Brown, a Houston businessman, 58 percent to 36 percent.

Most other posts go GOP

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, a Republican, overcame Democratic challenger, El Paso State District Court 34 Judge William Moody, garnering 59 percent of the vote to Moody’s 37 percent.

Incumbent members of the State Board of Education retained their seats but in a race between non-incumbents for SBOE Dist. 13, Democrat Erika Beltran won, getting 90 percent of the vote to Libertarian Junart Sodoy’s 10 percent.

Republican Konni Burton of Fort Worth won the race to succeed Wendy Davis in the state Senate Dist. 10 race, getting about 53 percent of the vote to Democratic opponent Libby Willis’s nearly 45 percent. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio did not resign to run for higher office. She will continue to hold the Sen. Dist. 26 seat. Dan Patrick’s successor in northwest Houston’s Sen. Dist. 7 is Republican Paul Bettencourt, who got nearly 72 percent of the vote to Democrat Jim Davis’s 26 percent.

Incumbents in the 150 state House of Representatives races, regardless of party, dominated their challengers. One exception was incumbent San Antonio Dist. 117 Rep. Philip Cortez, who with 47 percent of the vote lost to Republican challenger Rick Galindo’s 52 percent. Another incumbent Democrat, Rep. Mary Ann Perez of Dist. 144, which includes parts of Houston, Pasadena, Deer Park and Baytown, lost to Republican challenger Gilbert Pena by 1.31 percent of the vote. Notably, Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, in his race to retain the San Antonio House Dist. 121 seat, won against Libertarian Jeff Carruthers, 82 percent to 18 percent. Straus must receive the support of at least 76 of the next Texas Legislature’s 150 members to retain the speakership in the coming regular session convening in January.

Proposition 1 wins approval

Finally, Proposition 1 on the statewide ballot — “The constitutional amendment providing for the use and dedication of certain money transferred to the state highway fund to assist in the completion of transportation construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation projects, not to include toll roads” — passed with 80 percent of the vote in favor and 20 percent against.

Voter turnout figures normal

Secretary of State Nandita Berry, the state’s chief elections officer, on Oct. 16 reported more Texans than ever had registered to vote: 14,025,441. About 4.7 million voters followed through and cast ballots in early voting or on election day last week. That’s a 33.57 percent turnout, a little lower than the previous comparable election, in November 2010.

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