AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Republican Party are celebrating a successful Election Day and looking to keep that momentum rolling into a new legislative session in January.
The opposite is true for Democrats and top-of-the-ticket candidate Beto O’Rourke, who will now work to chart a path forward after a stinging defeat at the ballot box.
When all the counting finished, Abbott beat O’Rourke in the statewide race by 11 points, with 54.8% of the vote to O’Rourke’s 43.8%.
For perspective on what this means moving forward, we talked with Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Tom Miller: Coming off election night, we saw a resounding win for Greg Abbott. Does he potentially use this as a springboard to run for president?
Jim Henson: That’s been the talk for a long time. I think right now, we’re in a little bit of a holding pattern on that. Anybody who’s just gotten reelected, particularly as the discussion of who’s going to run nationally unfolds, has a little bit of time to decide. One thing for sure that we do know, it doesn’t hurt Governor Abbott to have people talking about it.
Tom: It was much less successful for Democrats. At this point, how do they regroup and make themselves competitive in Texas?
Jim: I think the underlying problem here is that the Democrats have so little organizational and financial resources that it makes it hard to know where they go next. In the long term, the state is becoming a bit more competitive over time. But the slope of that curve is very gradual. Democrats need to do something, kind of revamp the structure of their party to make them more competitive, recruit better candidates, have a more reliable fundraising base, less reliant on just one person.
Tom: Beto O’Rourke was the top of the ticket, speaking of that one person, and he’s now had three high-profile, losing campaigns. Is this the end of him as a politician?
Jim: I think that’s going to be a little hard to say. Certainly, it’s hard to run three times as he has and not win, and still stay on board as a candidate. Ultimately, a lot of people are looking backward saying there are people in the distant past that have done that in democratic politics. I think it’s a little harder to keep running until you win in the modern world, in this media environment.
Tom: We have a legislative session starting in two months, what’s going to be on the agenda for Republicans?
Jim: I think that’s really under active discussion. We have some leading indicators like the campaigns. We’re assured to see some discussion of property tax reduction or some other mode of tax reduction. A lot of issues that are bubbling on the kind of developmental, economic side – the so-called chapter 313 subsidies are a real active issue with a lot of mobilization in the business community right now. Infrastructure issues, public schools, (are) always on the agenda to some degree. You’ve also got pressure from the far right of the Republican Party who want further action on cultural issues that have been very divisive both inside the Republican Party and in the state. Things like abortion, and LGBTQ rights.