Election Day is November 6 for one of the most anticipated midterms in more than a decade. President Donald Trump is an historically unpopular president who nonetheless enjoys strong support in Texas. The marquee race is the contest for the U.S. Senate between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke—both of whom have said voter turnout is the key to victory. If Democratic turnout does increase significantly, upsets can easily happen at both the statewide and legislative levels. Here are a few races to watch on election night:
United States Senate
Republican Ted Cruz (i)
Democrat Beto O’Rourke
Libertarian Neal Dikeman
Freshman U.S. Senator Ted Cruz came in second behind Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential nominating battle. With no Democrat winning statewide office in Texas since 1994, Cruz looked like a shoo-in for re-election. But El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke inspired passion among young people, drew large crowds, and raked in money from progressives across America. Although O’Rourke has trailed in the polls, his fundraising turned this into one of the most expensive U.S. Senate races in American history. Can O’Rourke break the longest Democratic losing streak in the nation?
Republican Greg Abbott (i)
Democrat Lupe Valdez
Libertarian Mark Jay Tippetts
Governor Greg Abbott would get low scores among members of the Texas Legislature and Austin insiders for a lack of broad vision or leadership. However, he is popular elsewhere in Texas. He had a commanding presence during Hurricane Harvey. His opponent is former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the first Hispanic woman and lesbian to lead a major party’s ticket of statewide executives. Valdez has failed to break out beyond Democratic activists, though. The biggest question is whether O’Rourke’s popularity will have any coattails to help Valdez close the gap with Abbott.
Republican Ken Paxton (i)
Democrat Justin Nelson
Libertarian Michael Ray Harris
Not long after he took office as attorney general in 2015, Ken Paxton was indicted by a Collin County grand jury on charges of securities fraud stemming from his work as a private attorney. Paxton claims he is innocent and that the investigation of him was a political witch hunt. But three years have passed without Paxton going to trial. Democrat Justin Nelson is making an issue of the charges against Paxton and asks Texans why they would want to have an indicted attorney general. Nelson has lacked the money to make a truly competitive race, but with help from a big O’Rourke turnout, an upset is possible.
Republican Sid Miller (i)
Democrat Kim Olson
Libertarian Richard Carpenter
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is a former rodeo rider, but on Facebook and Twitter he has come off as more of a rodeo clown. He prints outrageous statements and untrue memes and once made a controversial trip to get a “Jesus Shot” to deal with pain from his days in the rodeo. All unapologetically. Challenger Kim Olson was one of the first women to fly a fighter jet for the U.S. Air Force and retired with an honorable discharge as a colonel despite a contracting controversy under her command in Iraq. Olson has a military demeanor, a commanding presence, and looks like a serious alternative to Miller—whose biggest claim to fame as a state legislator was legalizing helicopter hog hunts with fully automatic weapons.
Republican George P. Bush (i)
Democrat Miguel Suazo
Libertarian Matt Pina
The Bush family name may have helped George P. Bush win election as state land commissioner, but now we’re going to see if it is good enough to keep him there. Bush angered many conservatives with his plan to “reimagine” the Alamo plaza. There never were enough details to know what that meant, but he came under fire from legislators for setting up private foundations to handle the work without public scrutiny. Bush also caught flak for not being aggressive enough on pushing the federal government for housing after Hurricane Harvey. Most recently, Bush angered Republicans and Democrats on the State Board of Education for taking actions that aggrandized his state agency while endangering $140 million in funds for the state’s public school over the next two years. Topping it all off, two of Bush’s Republican primary opponents have endorsed Democrat Miguel Suazo, an energy lawyer, in the general election.
U.S. House of Representatives, District 7
Republican John Culberson (i)
Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried this district in 2016 even as Republican Congressman John Culberson won re-election. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee designated this district as a top priority for this year’s election for a possible partisan flip. Attorney Lizzie Pannil Fletcher has been campaigning hard. Culberson got laid low during a crucial time in the campaign because of surgery. This district is one critical in the fight for which party will control the U.S. House.
U.S. House of Representatives, District 23
Republican Will Hurd (i)
Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones
Libertarian Ruben Corvalan
If there is a congressional district where a Democrat should flip it this year, District 23 is it. Incumbent Republican Will Hurd squeaked out a victory in 2016, and this is the only district in Texas that Clinton carried over President Trump and also received more votes than the winning Republican congressman. But Hurd is not your usual Republican. He took a bipartisan road trip last year with Beto O’Rourke that was live streamed on Facebook. Hurd also has publicly opposed President Trump on building a border wall. This heavily Hispanic district would go Democrat in a high voter turnout, potentially giving a victory to Gina Ortiz Jones. This race also is unusual because it is spy versus spy. Hurd is a former CIA officer, and Ortiz Jones was an intelligence officer for the U.S. Air Force and an analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
U.S. Representatives, District 31
Republican John Carter (i)
Democrat Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar
Libertarian Jason Hope
The heavily Republican Congressional District 31 incorporates the two counties directly north of Austin, and is seemingly safe for incumbent John Carter, who has represented the district since 2003. But the district is changing as young families move into the Round Rock area to escape rising home prices in Austin and the taxes that go along with them. Democrat M.J. Hegar made this a surprise race to watch with a video about her experiences as a helicopter rescue co-pilot whose helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. She later became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that won women the right to participate in ground combat. Immediately after her video became an internet sensation, Hegar raised more than $700,000. However, it is tough to turn a district that Clinton did not even come close to carrying.
U.S. House of Representatives, District 32
Republican Pete Sessions (i)
Democrat Colin Allred
Libertarian Melina Baker
Democrats felt so sure of defeat in 2016 that they did not even offer a candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman Pete Sessions. He has represented the Dallas area in Congress since 2003, first in District 5 and then District 32 after a redistricting. He is chairman of the House Rules Committee. But after Hillary Clinton carried this district over President Trump in 2016, national Democrats were horrified that the field had been ceded to Sessions. After a lively primary this spring, former NFL football player Colin Allred emerged as the Democratic challenger to Sessions. Allred is an attorney and has raised substantially more money than Sessions. The district leans Republican, but numerous young families and people from out of state have been moving into apartment complexes in the district. Plus, Dallas County has been trending Democratic in one election after another in recent years. But District 32 also includes some of the wealthiest enclaves of Dallas, and Sessions received about 30,00 more actual votes than Clinton in 2016. Clinton also carried the district because Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson siphoned off votes from Trump. So this is a district where Libertarian Melina Baker could pick up enough votes from disaffected Republicans to serve as a spoiler in the contest. Allred has a great chance to create an upset here, but it remains Session’s race to lose.