Texas, a hothouse for Republicans, is a decidedly hostile environment for Democrats. If that was not obvious in the first readings of election results this month and in the continuation of the Republican winning streak in statewide races, a dive into the numbers shows the depth of the hole Democrats are trying to fill.
This is what a red state looks like:
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, received 61.6 percent of the vote statewide. Cornyn did worse than that, on a percentage basis, in only 38 of the state’s 254 counties. Put that another way: He beat David Alameel, his Democratic opponent, by more than his statewide average in 216 counties.
The numbers are a bit mind-boggling: Cornyn got at least 80 percent of the vote in 134 counties — more than half the counties in the state. That includes big ones, like Montgomery, where he won 81.6 percent of the 103,462 votes cast.
The senator’s best spot? King County, about halfway between Lubbock and Wichita Falls, where he received 87 of the 90 votes cast.
In contrast, Alameel broke 50 percent in just 16 counties, turning in his best showing — 76.4 percent — in Starr County, deep in South Texas. His column also included some counties with big populations, like Travis, seat of the state capital, and El Paso, Cameron and Hidalgo, on opposite ends of the state’s border with Mexico. And the Dallas resident won his home county, although he did so with less than 50 percent of the vote (some voters cast their ballots for third-party and write-in candidates).
But the numbers were impossible for Alameel: The counties where he received the majority of the vote accounted for only 11.1 percent of the statewide vote this month.
The numbers were similar in the marquee race — the contest for governor between Greg Abbott, the Republican, and Wendy Davis, the Democrat. She won in only 19 counties, and broke 50 percent in only 18 counties.
Again, there were some big wins: Dallas County sent 54.8 percent of its votes to the Democrat, and Davis won in some of the big counties along the Texas-Mexico border. But she lost others, including her home county, on her way to a demoralizing defeat. The counties where she prevailed accounted for only 20 percent of the statewide vote for governor.
Like Alameel, her best showing was also in Starr County: 77.3 percent.
Abbott, meanwhile, got more than 77.3 percent of the vote in 134 counties. He got 80 percent or better in 110 counties, and 90 percent or more in 14 counties. King County was the reddest of the red, giving 90 votes to Abbott and just one to Davis.
Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat who ran for lieutenant governor, did something that neither of her up-ballot colleagues managed to do: She won Bexar County, which she represents as a state senator from San Antonio.
Like the other Democrats, Van de Putte lost big. Her Republican opponent, Dan Patrick, also a state senator, won 58.1 percent of the statewide vote; she won just 38.7 percent. He won 231 counties to her 23. The Bexar County win made Van de Putte the winner in counties that accounted for 26.5 percent of the overall vote — an anemic showing that nevertheless sparkles next to the numbers for Davis and Alameel.
Patrick’s numbers mirror those of Cornyn and Abbott: 90 percent or better in 12 counties; 80 percent or better in 102 counties; 70 percent or better in 187 counties.
As with the other Republicans, Patrick did best in King County, with 84 votes to Van de Putte’s one. The best of the big counties for him and the other Republicans was Montgomery, just north of Houston, where 79 percent of voters cast ballots for Patrick.
The Republicans had a big year, and their winning margins reflected that, even in the face of much-hyped Democratic efforts to identify and turn out new voters. Wins are not counted by the numbers of counties won, but by the number of votes cast over all.
That is all well and good. But the maps do show this: The state’s red counties outnumber its blue ones, and are more intensely partisan. For all the talk about turning Texas blue, the state remains reliably and overwhelmingly red.