After the 2008 election, the blue team had narrowed the Republican advantage in the 150-member House of Representatives to just a two-seat 76-74 margin. With near parity between the parties and a moderate Speaker – San Antonio Republican Joe Straus — the House was a reasonable, functioning chamber. Then came the 2010 election.
The first midterm of the Obama presidency gave rise to the Tea Party movement and produced a red political tsunami in the Lone Star State. In November 2010, Republicans gained 24 seats in the House, producing a super-majority after a couple of party switches, and relegated Democrats to near irrelevance in the Legislature.
Redistricting in 2011 produced a masterful Republican gerrymander cementing Republican control in Austin for the decade. Only Straus’ moderate speakership prevented the House descending into total and complete far-right lunacy.
Over the course of this decade, Democrats averaged gains of a few House seats each cycle, but Republicans remained firmly in control. When Straus announced he would not seek re-election, many feared the right wing would finally seize control of the Texas House, joining Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and the Senate.
Instead, led by Beto O’Rourke’s shockingly close run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Texas House, and narrowed GOP control to an 83-67 seat margin for the 86th legislative session now underway. And, tellingly, new Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) promised a pragmatic approach rather than a rightward lurch.
There are a bunch of districts O’Rourke won, or nearly won, where the GOP House member survived in 2018. Here are 20 seats Democrats have targeted for pick-up next year:
- HD 14 Brazos County (John Raney). O’Rourke: 48.4%
- HD 26 Ft. Bend County (Rick Miller). O’Rourke: 50.5%
- HD 28 Ft. Bend County (John Zerwas). O’Rourke: 48.1%
- HD 32 Nueces County (Todd Hunter). O’Rourke: 47%
- HD 54 Bell & Lampasas County (Brad Buckley). O’Rourke: 49%
- HD 64 Denton County (Lynn Stuckey). O’Rourke: 49.8%
- HD 66 Collin County (Matt Shaheen). O’Rourke: 52.5%
- HD 67 Collin County (Jeff Leach). O’Rourke: 52.3%
- HD 92 Tarrant County (Jonathan Stickland). O’Rourke: 48.3%
- HD 93 Tarrant County (Matt Krause). O’Rourke: 48.2%
- HD 94 Tarrant County (Tony Tinderholt). O’Rourke: 47.9%
- HD 96 Tarrant County (Bill Zedler). O’Rourke: 49.5%
- HD 97 Tarrant County (Craig Goldman). O’Rourke: 48.6%
- HD 108 Dallas County (Morgan Meyer). O’Rourke: 57.1%
- HD 112 Dallas County (Angie Chen-Button). O’Rourke: 54.4%
- HD 121 Bexar County (Steve Allison). O’Rourke: 49.7%
- HD 126 Harris County (Sam Harless). O’Rourke: 47.8%
- HD 129 Harris County (Dennis Paul). O’Rourke: 45.2%
- HD 134 Harris County (Sarah Davis). O’Rourke: 60.3%
- HD 138 Harris County (Dwayne Bohac). O’Rourke: 52.7%
Emboldened by big gains in the House last year, despite underfunded campaigns, Democrats now see a path to seizing control of the Texas House in 2020, just in time for another round of decennial redistricting. Team Blue would need to gain nine seats to win a majority of seats in the House, and the path to doing so runs through the suburbs of metro Texas.