Led by a slate of female candidates, Democrats flipped 12 seats in the Texas House in Tuesday’s midterm elections, marking the biggest shift in the lower chamber since the 2010 midterm elections.
In January, when the Texas Legislature convenes for the 86th legislative session, the Republicans’ 95-55 advantage over the Democrats will shrink to 83-67, which could boost the role Democrats will play in electing the next Texas House Speaker — who will only need support from 76 House members to succeed the retiring Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican.
Democrats made most of their House gains in North Texas, where shifting demographics, along with Democratic enthusiasm for the top of their party’s ticket, placed GOP incumbents up and down the ballot on the defense. Democrats also flipped a number of GOP-held seats in Central Texas and in the Houston area.
Democratic women picked off five North Texas seats, highlighted by defeats of two high-profile GOP incumbents: Julie Johnson defeated Matt Rinaldi of Irving, a member of the hardline conservative Texas House Freedom Caucus, while Michelle Beckley beat Ron Simmons of Carrollton, who authored a version of the “bathroom bill” in 2017.
Terry Meza also defeated Republican state Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Ana-Maria Ramos ousted state Rep. Linda Koop of Dallas and Rhetta Bowers defeated Republican Jonathan Boos for a seat being vacated by state Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale.
In a sixth Democratic pickup in North Texas, John Turner defeated Republican Lisa Luby Ryan for the seat currently held by outgoing state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.
Two Dallas-area Republican incumbents won their re-election bids: State Reps. Angie Chen Button of Richardson and Morgan Meyer of Dallas. Republicans failed to knock off one of their main targets in North Texas as state Rep. Victoria Neave of Dallas won re-election.
Democrats also picked up four seats in Central Texas: John Bucy III defeated state Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park; Erin Zwiener edged Republican Ken Strange for a seat being vacated by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs; James Talarico beat Republican Cynthia Flores to succeed former state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; and Democrat Vikki Goodwin unseated state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin.
And they won two more in the Houston area, where Gina Calanni ousted state Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, with a razor-thin 49-vote margin, and Jon Rosenthal narrowly defeated Republican state Rep. Gary Elkins of Houston.
Another Houston-area Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, held off her Democratic opponent, Allison Lami Sawyer. Davis, a centrist, pro-abortion rights Republican, survived a heavy-handed attempt by Gov. Greg Abbott to unseat her in the March primaries.
Despite the GOP’s losses on Tuesday, the 12-member, hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus could grow its membership by at least a few in 2019. At least three Republicans aligned with the more conservative faction of the party — Mayes Middleton, Jared Patterson and Steve Toth — won their races.