Early on Tuesday night, El Paso Democrats were feeling optimistic about Beto O’Rourke’s chances. Rural votes were tied, and votes from Texas’s major cities—Houston, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso—largely weren’t counted yet. It looked like he might just be the first Democratic senator elected in the state of Texas since 1988.
It didn’t turn out that way: Ted Cruz won by just over two and a half percentage points. Beto won’t be the next senator to represent the state of Texas.
In the final episode of Underdog: Beto vs. Cruz, host Eric Benson heads to El Paso and onto the VIP floor at Beto’s viewing party, talking with supporters, local politicians, and campaign staff during the final 36 hours.
On Election Day, Benson talks with Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar, lifelong El Pasoans who’ve been close with O’Rourke for more than fifteen years. Escobar would go on to be one of the first two Latinas elected to Congress from Texas (along with Sylvia Garcia from Houston), and Byrd ran her campaign. But on Tuesday, they talked about Beto, their political kid brother who’s all grown up.
After the results came in, Benson talked to political scientists Jim Henson and Josh Blank about what Beto’s narrow loss means for Texas. “This election really clarified who the base of each party is,” says Blank. “To a greater degree than we already knew, I don’t see how a Democrat runs statewide in Texas without a complete and total focus on mobilizing young people, mobilizing people of color, focusing on women’s issues, and basically saying, yeah, I’m a progressive.” As for Beto? They both see hope for him in 2020.
You can find Texas Monthly and Pineapple Street Media’s Underdog: Beto vs. Cruz on Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.