DALLAS (AP) – Texas voters made Ted Cruz the state’s first Hispanic U.S. senator but their overwhelming support for fellow Republican Mitt Romney wasn’t enough to keep Democratic President Barack Obama from winning re-election to a second term.
The GOP dominance at the top of the Texas ticket was no surprise. Democrats haven’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994, the longest state losing streak for the party in the country.
Romney won Texas’ 38 electoral votes by building a nearly 3-2 margin lead over Obama but lost the overall prize.
In the balloting to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Cruz similarly topped underfunded former Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler. Cruz was virtually unknown as a former state solicitor general before he used tea party backing to emerge from a crowded GOP primary field as runner-up to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, then swept by the mainstream party choice in the runoff to clinch the Republican nomination.
In congressional races, Texas is getting four new representatives thanks to adding 4.3 million residents between 2000 and 2010, bringing the delegation count to 36. Republicans took 22 seats Tuesday and Democrats captured 14, highlighted by state Rep. Pete Gallego’s narrow ouster of freshman Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco in a sprawling district stretching from San Antonio to eastern El Paso County.
In another high-profile contest, Republican state Rep. Randy Weber slipped by former Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson in the Gulf Coast district being vacated by retiring Republican Ron Paul.
In the Legislature, Republicans lost the 102-vote supermajority in the House that had allowed them to pass legislation even if their Democratic colleagues failed to show up for work, but still maintained their grip on the chamber.
And in the state Senate, an expensive and increasingly nasty battle ended with Fort Worth Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis taking a narrow victory over challenger and tea party Republican state Rep. Mark Shelton. Davis’ triumph leaves Republicans with a 19-12 advantage. Under the Senate’s traditional rules, a bill needs 21 votes to make it to the floor for debate, and Republicans were fighting for every possible seat to achieve a supermajority that can suspend the rules.
Among the Senate winners was Democrat Mario Gallegos, Jr., an incumbent from Houston who died in October of liver failure. A special election will be held to fill his seat.
Cruz told supporters in Houston if Obama followed through on campaign promises to bring people together to reduce the deficit and get people working, “then I will work with him.”
But Cruz said if Obama did not, “then I will spend every waking moment to stop it.”
“My pledge to you is to work every single day in the U.S. Senate to champion small business and entrepreneurs and help them do what they do best, create jobs and get America working again,” he said.
Sadler said he called Cruz to congratulate him.
“It’s worth the fight, our state is worth the fight, our country is worth the fight,” Sadler said of his long-shot campaign. “We expanded the debate and made people think maybe about issues a little deeper.”
Voters waited at least 30 minutes at some Texas precincts earlier in the day although state officials predicted overall turnout likely would be below levels of four years ago.
“I don’t think you should take money from people just because they are successful,” said Bob Ramey, 61, an El Paso accountant, explaining why he couldn’t vote for Obama, who advocates higher taxes for wealthier Americans.
But Ben Hernandez, 59, who owns a construction company with his wife in League City outside Houston, credited the president with a good job in his first term and deserving of their votes.
“He did what he had to do,” Mary Sue Hernandez, 52, said. “He came in at the toughest time and he did well.”
A tight race unfolded in a sprawling congressional district stretching from San Antonio to eastern El Paso County, where freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco and Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego swapped slim leads.
And in the election for the seat Republican Ron Paul is leaving along the Gulf Coast, Republican state Rep. Randy Weber narrowly defeated former Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson.
In the winners with surprising backgrounds was Republican former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, who served one term in Congress starting in 1994 but accused the government of “executing” members of the Branch Davidian cult after the siege near Waco. He was headed back to Capitol Hill after waging a low-profile campaign in a district north and east of Houston.
Beto O’Rourke also was going to Congress for the first time from heavily Democratic District 16. He is a guitar-playing, twice-arrested former El Paso city councilman who once advocated for legalizing marijuana but nonetheless stunned eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes during the Democratic primary.
All 15 of the Texas Board of Education’s seats were also on the ballot. Ten Republicans won and five seats went to Democrats, including Martha Dominguez’s victory over GOP incumbent Carlos “Charlie” Garza in an El Paso-area region. Still unresolved, however, is whether social conservatives gained more influence.
Among statewide court races, Republican Sharon Keller won a fourth six-year term as presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Keller gained notoriety in 2007 for closing the state’s highest criminal court precisely at 5 p.m., barring a final-hour appeal from a death row inmate who was executed that evening.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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