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Half of the state senators in Texas don’t have to run for re-election until 2020, and at least one of them should consider himself very, very lucky.
State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, represents one of the most politically competitive districts in the state. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by almost 12 percentage points in Uresti’s SD-19. In the 2014 governor’s race, Republican Greg Abbott finished just a whisker ahead of Democrat Wendy Davis — 0.1 percentage points.
Past election results aren’t necessarily a guide to the future, but turnout in Texas is lower in gubernatorial election years than in presidential election years, and in a district where the average statewide Republican has finished just 4.4 percentage points behind the average statewide Democrat, both parties will be treating that as a swing district — in the future. For now, Uresti, who has a criminal fraud trial starting soon, is off the political hook.
So are most of the Texas senators who will be on the 2018 ballot, at least in the general election.
Three Republicans — Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, Bob Hall of Edgewood and Kel Seliger of Amarillo — have potentially formidable primary opponents. But of the 15 senators who’ll be on the ballot (out of 31 total), only one has to navigate a historically competitive general election.
That’s Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville. Trump edged Clinton in her district two years ago. Davis, who held that Senate seat before Burton, lost in the district but held Abbott to 52.9 percent — below his statewide result of 59.3 percent. On average, Republicans beat Democrats in statewide races by 9 percentage points in 2014 and 2016 — doing a little better in gubernatorial years and a little worse in presidential ones.
Others have to pay attention, even if the historical numbers are a little better. Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, is running for re-election in a district that typically favors Republicans. But Clinton beat Trump 49.9 percent to 45.3 percent in 2016, and Dallas County overall has become reliable Democratic territory.
Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, also has a Republican district where Clinton ran close. Trump won the district by 0.9 percentage points. Other Republicans did much better, but that’s the kind of result that attracts competitive interest.
Twelve of the 15 districts on the Senate ballot in 2018 are represented by Republicans. Most of those, and all of those held by Democrats, have remained firmly in the clutches of the party now in power during the last two election cycles. Most of 2018's competition will be in March, not in November.
Here’s the full spreadsheet of these election results for all 31 Texas state Senate districts, or you can download a version (congressional districts are here). Still ahead: recent state House election history.
Behind the numbers
- The 2016 averages include only the statewide races that had both Democratic and Republican contenders: president; railroad commissioner; Texas Supreme Court, places 3, 5 and 9; and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, places 2, 5 and 6.
- The 2014 averages include only the statewide races that had both Democratic and Republican contenders: U.S. Senate; governor; lieutenant governor; attorney general; comptroller; land commissioner; agriculture commissioner; railroad commissioner; Texas Supreme Court, chief justice, places 6 and 7; and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, place 3.
- Third-party and write-in candidates were not included in the averages. The raw numbers for election results by political district are available online from the Texas Legislative Council; the computations were done by the author.
- These are results from the last two general elections and are not predictions or forecasts of what might happen in the 2018 elections.