Another Republican Sweep

11:06 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

Despite close calls in several statewide races—the U.S. Senate race among the most prominent—the Republicans once again swept all statewide offices. Democrats didn’t leave the night with the sense of defeat that they have had since the last time they won statewide twenty-four years ago. But they left once again without a win.

That will end our midterm Election Night coverage; thanks to all who joined us and all who participated in the electoral process this year.

The D/FW Tea Party Is Sinking

10:45 p.m., R.G. Ratcliffe

A tea party disaster appeared to be in the making in North Texas. State Senator Konni Burton was defeated by former school board member Beverly Powell of Fort Worth. Burton had been one of the founders of the Northeast Tarrant County Tea Party. Another conservative Republican state senator, Don Huffines, also was trailing badly in early returns to Democrat Nathan Johnson. In the state House, Dallas Republican candidates and incumbents that were trailing in the early vote included Linda Koop, Rodney Anderson, Jonathan Boos, Lisa Luby Ryan, and Matt Rinaldi.

Multiple Media Outlets Project Ted Cruz Wins

9:15 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

Multiple media outlets, including ABC, NBC, and The Hill have projected incumbent Ted Cruz has won reelection to a second term. His opponent, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, had been leading in a close race much of the evening, but Cruz began pulling away as the more conservative, rural counties began showing their vote totals. Despite the projections, O’Rourke did not immediately concede the race.

Tight Statewide Races

8:55 p.m., R.G. Ratcliffe

Almost as surprising as Beto O’Rourke keeping the Senate race tight, early returns are showing trouble for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Their Democratic opponents—Mike Collier, Justin Nelson, and Kim Olson, respectively—are in statistical ties with the Republican incumbents. That probably will change as rural counties report, but it shows all three of the office holders are weaker than they would claim.

And speaking of candidate weakness, Cruz at present has received almost 230,000 fewer votes than Governor Greg Abbott.  

Tight Senate Race

8:35 p.m., R.G. Ratcliffe

Shortly after 8 p.m., the Beto O’Rourke surprise head rush of leading in the early voting returns started to fade as rural counties began turning in their results favoring Ted Cruz. But Harris County had not weighed in, which is likely an O’Rourke county. Also outstanding is the suburban county of Montgomery and its usually heavy Republican vote. The early vote in Harris County was 54 percent straight ticket Democrat, with O’Rourke leading 57 percent to 42 percent for Cruz.

Historic Election

8:25 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

Former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar made history by becoming the first Latina from Texas elected to Congress. With early voting numbers posted just after polls closed in El Paso at 8 p.m. CST, Escobar won 69 percent of the vote against the Republican businessman Rick Seeberger. She is expected to join Sylvia Garcia, the likely winner in a Houston House seat, as the first two Texas Latinas in Congress. But since Harris County officials withheld its vote count for an hour, Escobar emerged as the first declared winner.

CNN Projects Abbott Wins

8 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

CNN projected that Governor Greg Abbott has won a second term. The projection came moments after the 8 p.m. CST poll closed in El Paso. The Texas Secretary of State shows Abbott is ahead by a margin of 54 percent to 44 percent.

Blaming the Media

7:45 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

Following widespread criticism, U.S. Customs and Border Protection postponed a planned “crowd control” exercise by members of the U.S. Border Patrol. Democrats decried the planned exercise, which would have occurred less than half a mile from at least one polling place. In the face of the backlash, border officials postponed the event and said they would send out an explanation later. They released the explanation Tuesday night:

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been and will continue to prepare for the potential arrival of thousands of people migrating in a caravan heading toward the United States, through the Southwest border. This includes training exercises, deploying additional CBP personnel and partnering with the U.S. military. The U.S Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector postponed joint caravan-related exercises on the El Paso border scheduled for today out of an abundance of caution and due to inaccurate reporting that caused unneeded confusion in border communities. We will continue training exercises in the following days, as necessary to ensure border security and the safety of the American people, the traveling public, CBP personnel and the communities in which we serve.”

Democrats Leading In Several Urban Areas

7:35 p.m., R.G. Ratcliffe

The Dallas County Clerk is reporting straight ticket voting during early voting was 64 percent Democratic to 35 percent Republican. In the early returns in Dallas, O’Rourke led 66 percent to 33 percent. In the premier congressional race in the county, Democrat Collin Allred is leading incumbent Republican Pete Sessions 54 percent to 44 percent in District 32.

In Travis County, straight ticket in early voting went 73 percent Democratic. O’Rourke was leading with almost 76 percent of the vote.

Williamson County just north of Austin reported 54 percent of its early vote was straight ticket Republican. But for those who chose to vote by contest, O’Rourke led Cruz 51 percent to 47 percent. And Democratic military veteran Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar was leading incumbent Republican congressman John Carter 50 percent to 48 percent.

One shocker in traditionally Republican Williamson County is that Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is tied with Democratic challenger Mike Collier, and Democrat Justin Nelson is slightly ahead of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Money Race

7:32 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

CARLOS: One thing that is certain already this election cycle is the record breaking fundraising by O’Rourke. How did they spend that money?

RG: Through a sophisticated social media effort, Beto O’Rourke raised $70 million and spent $60 million through October 17. Some folks tonight asked me if O’Rourke ever used a pollster, and the answer is No. He used some companies to manage social media and radio and television advertising buys, and no doubt they used some marketing techniques, but Beto was unplugged on crafting his messages or cutting his television commercials. Ted Cruz had a much more traditional campaign. Cruz raised $29 million and spent $27 million.

An Early Look at O’Rourke’s Watch Party

7:30 p.m., Robert Moore

Beto O’Rourke’s election night party is taking place at Southwest University Park, home of El Paso’s Triple-A baseball El Paso Chihuahuas. People were lining up by 6 p.m. El Paso time. El Paso attorney Omar Villa, 39, was among the first people in line waiting to enter Southwest University Park Tuesday night for Beto O’Rourke’s election night party. With him was his seven-year-old son, Leo.

“I wanted to bring my son to see what’s probably the biggest event that’s ever happened in El Paso. The focus of this election has been in this border region, primarily with Beto’s campaign,” Villa said. “The tension on the border that’s perceived in the rest of the country doesn’t exist here. I think this is important as a resident of this community that people get a better perspective, a better view of what actually goes on on the border. That’s important to me because this is my hometown, this is where I choose to live, this is where I choose to raise my children.”

Etcetera: Good News For Cruz and Beto

7:25 p.m., Jack Keyes
  • “According to AP exit polling, 53 percent of the electorate considered themselves somewhat or very conservative, a good sign for Cruz holding onto his Senate seat,” Michael Dempsey, Houston Chronicle
  • Houston-born superstar Beyoncé endorsed Beto O’Rourke in the 11th hour.

CNN Jumps Ahead of Texas Secretary of State

7:15 p.m., R.G. Ratcliffe

CNN is reporting returns ahead of the Texas Secretary of State. With just 13 percent of the precincts reporting from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, CNN reported O’Rourke as having 58.5 percent of the vote, and Cruz, 40.9 percent. The Secretary of State just reported that with .10 percent of the precincts reporting, Cruz is ahead 82 percent to 17 percent. Media companies use stringers to call in results, while the state waits for returns to be reported from the counties. So that may not even be the same set of votes being reported.

Photograph by Michael Hardy

An Early Look at Cruz’s Watch Party

7:05 p.m., Michael Hardy

Cruz supporters are lined up outside the ballroom of the Post Oak Hilton, in Houston’s Galleria area, waiting to get into what they hope will be a victory party. Inside the ballroom, the press area is overflowing with local, state, and national reporters here to see whether Congressman Beto O’Rourke can pull off one of the greatest upsets in Texas political history. Speakers at the Cruz watch party will include the senator’s father, Rafael Cruz; furniture empresario Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale; and Houston radio talk show host Michael Berry, who will introduce Cruz. Splayed out on every table in the ballroom are pocket copies of the Constitution, each one with a cover featuring Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign logo and slogan. (“Courageous Conservatives—Reigniting the Promise of America.”)

Toward the front of the line to get into the ballroom was Joe Finley of Pearland, wearing a camouflage “Make America Great Again” hat and a “TrusTED” button. Finley, who said he came out to watch the returns with “likeminded people,” said he “totally supports” Cruz and predicted the senator would trounce O’Rourke. “It’s going to be substantial,” he said of the anticipated margin of victory. “The media makes you think it’s closer than it is. And social media makes it worse.” About Cruz and Trump’s feud during the 2016 Republican primary, Finley said that was just politics. “That’s part of the game they have to play. And Trump won. He beat all the Republican, he beat Hillary, and he beat the media.”

Harris County Delays Release of Early Voting

6;45 p.m., R.G. Ratcliffe

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart tweeted that the District Court ruling will delay release of early voting and absentee ballots.

Some polling places in the county did not open on time this morning, so they are staying open until 8 p.m. said Texas Secretary of State spokesman Sam Taylor. He verified that there will be no returns released from Harris County until after 8 p.m.

Eight Million Voters Predicted

6:30, Carlos Sanchez

CARLOS: Republican political analyst Derek Ryan is emerging as the early voting guru for Texas elections. After this year’s turnout, he’s predicting vote totals (early voting and Election Day) will hit 8 million voters. What’s the significance of this number, R.G?

R.G.: More than anything, this is an indication of how much this has become a national election. In the 2014 midterm election, there were 4.7 million votes cast, a little less than 34 percent of the registered voters. In 2016, the turnout was 8.9 million voters, 59 percent of the registered voters. As much as this is a contest between Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger—Congressman Beto O’Rourke—this also is a Texas referendum on the performance of President Trump.

Etcetera: Polling Problems

6:15, Kayleigh Hanna
  • Judge Ordered Harris County Polling place to stay open one hour to make up for late open this morning.
  • Poll worker in Harris County cited for misdemeanor assault after bumping a voter and making racially charged comments.
  • Paper ballot shortage occurs in Arlington after polling machines began acting up.

Welcome to our Election Night live blog

6 p.m., Carlos Sanchez

CARLOS SANCHEZ: The polls will close at 7 p.m. in much of Texas, but the drama will just begin. This is Carlos Sanchez, political editor of Texas Monthly. Tonight, I’ll be joined by Texas Monthly senior editor R.G. Ratcliffe for a live blog discussion of the 2018 elections. We’ll be checking in throughout the night with Robert Moore, an El Paso–based journalist who is with the Beto O’Rourke campaign this evening, and Texas Monthly writer-at-large Michael Hardy, who is with the Ted Cruz campaign.

In addition to monitoring one of the nation’s highest-profile elections, we’ll be following several other statewide races, including that of governor. Every one of Texas’s 36 congressional districts and 150 seats in the Texas House were also on the ballot.

In short, the implications for today’s elections are huge.

Perhaps the biggest story emerging as the polls close is this year’s voter turnout.

Well-regarded voter analyst Derek Ryan is predicting that a total of 8 million Texans will have voted this year—both today and in the early voting period. That equates to 52 percent of the state’s registered voters and is a record turnout for any midterm election in the state.

As numbers come in over the next few hours, remember that the polls are not closed throughout the state. The remaining big city in Texas where the polls are open is El Paso, which is in the Mountain Time Zone and an hour behind much of the rest of Texas. El Paso is also O’Rourke’s hometown, and El Paso County carries the distinction of having the largest midterm-over-midterm increase in voters in the entire state. The early vote turnout between this year and 2014, the last midterm election, is just over 262 percent. The next highest county is Comal, north of San Antonio, which saw a 180 percent increase in its early voting numbers over 2014.

What that means, we’ll discuss tonight. But first I wanted to share some research R.G. Ratcliffe has been tied up with.

R.G. RATCLIFFE: To create an estimate of the election outcome between Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, I did the following:

I compared early vote turnout reports from the national Democratic firm Target Smart and from the Texas Republican data firm Ryan Data & Research to develop a picture of early turnout by voting age.

Yes, the turnout among 18-to-29-year-olds was up 462 percent from 2014, and voting by 30-to-39-year-olds was up by 295 percent. Those are great figures for people who will become permanent voters in the future, but they were so outmatched by older voters in 2014 that it made only a small dent in the overall electorate. For instance, increased voting by people age 65 and older only went up 90 percent, but that totaled 1.7 million voters against 1.4 million voters under the age of 40.

The Target Smart age breakdown for early voting went like this:

Age Voters
18-29 665,241
30-39 750,402
40-49 907,802
50-64 1,760,798
Age 65+ 1,725,618

Because this election completely blew away the 2014 midterm, I decided to start comparing the turnout to the 2016 presidential election. Fewer Texas voters will turn out this year, but the overall number likely will be close. So I looked at the exit polls from 2016 by age.

18-24: Clinton 58 percent; Trump 32 percent
25-29: Clinton 51 percent; Trump 41 percent
30-39: Clinton 46 percent; Trump 46 percent
40-49: Clinton 41 percent; Trump 54 percent
50-64: Clinton 39 percent; Trump 59 percent
Age 65+: Clinton 35 percent; Trump 64 percent

Statewide, Trump won the election 52 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent of the vote. Their percentages stayed pretty close to the same between the early vote and Election Day balloting. Clinton gained one million votes on Election Day, and Trump picked up 1.2 million.

The big gain on Election Day was Libertarian Gary Johnson. He only gained about 100,000, but his percentage of the total vote went up from 2.76 percent to 3.16 percent. My suspicion has been that Republicans who did not want to vote for Trump but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton found Johnson to be a safe harbor of protest.

This year, if the race between Cruz and O’Rourke is close, a 3-4 percentage point vote for Neal Dikeman could become a spoiler for Cruz and the winning edge for O’Rourke.

Going back to the early vote age breakdown, I compared that to the most recent polling done by Quinnipiac University, which found Cruz leading O’Rourke 51 percent to 46 percent. I chose this poll because it was the most recently conducted that contained an age breakdown. The pollsters shared with me the age breakdown in their survey.

If the election for United States Senator were being held today, and the candidates were Beto O’Rourke the Democrat and Ted Cruz the Republican, for whom would you vote? (If undecided) As of today, do you lean more toward Beto O’Rourke the Democrat or more toward Ted Cruz the Republican?

Likely voters

Total 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+
O’Rourke 46% 66% 47% 44% 37%
Cruz 51% 34% 49% 53% 59%

Because the Quinnipiac survey age breakdown did not exactly match the Target Smart breakdown of voters, I had to massage the numbers a bit by gut feel. And because the survey did not ask about the Libertarian, Dikeman’s share of the vote will affect the final percentages for Cruz and O’Rourke. Here’s my prediction for the election, just between Cruz and O’Rourke if 8.1 million Texans vote:

Ted Cruz: 4.3 million votes—55 percent
Beto O’Rourke: 3.6 million votes–45 percent

In the presidential election, it looks like most of Johnson’s vote came out of Trump’s. So if Dikeman draws 4 percent of the vote:

Cruz: 51 percent
O’Rourke: 45 percent
Dikeman: 4 percent

If O’Rourke receives 45 percent of the vote, his campaign will have been the most successful and had the best result for a Democratic non-judicial candidate since 1998, when John Sharp received 48 percent of the vote for lieutenant governor and Paul Hobby [editor’s note: Paul Hobby is the chairman and CEO of Texas Monthly] captured 49 percent of the vote for state comptroller. Texas Supreme Court candidate Margaret Mirabal received 46 percent of the vote in 2002.