Midterm election results reveal increased voter participation, optimism


Hannah Garcia

The local Democratic and Republican parties hosted viewing events the night of the election

After almost two years of campaigning, millions of dollars and a historical voter turnout, the 2018 midterms came to a rousing conclusion. El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Texas Democrats’ great hope, lost to incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican who will now serve a second term. It’s the future that is now on voters minds.

“Beto 2020,” said freshman Emily Teaver at a bipartisan watch party hosted in Space Twenty-Four Twenty. “Beto for President.”

Historically, Texas has had abysmal voter turnout — 9 million in 2016 and 4.6 million in 2014, according to the Texas Tribune. Last week’s midterms flipped this precedent with turnout of 8.3 million. The Beto-Cruz race energized Texans, especially Democrats who made no secret at watch parties last week of their hopes for the future.

Freshman Dani Romero went into this election feeling confident about O’Rourke’s campaign because of the amount of people she saw supporting him. Although she was disappointed in his loss, she was still proud of the results.

“I was extremely proud of the taking of the House by the Democrats, and the amount of women and women of color that were elected for Congress,” said Romero.

At the Cover 3 restaurant and bar, the Travis County Republican Party hosted a watch party that encompassed over half of the restaurant. On every screen, a different news outlet that covered the election streamed. In attendance was Republican Todd M. Smith, director of the Former Texas Rangers Foundation who said he was working to re-elect state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Smith believed that the GOP would hold their own in the House, a prediction that did not come true, and remain in power in the Senate. He did acknowledge the excited Democratic base.

“It forces Republicans who had a very long run of no competition at all to get the oil can out and get motivated to show the people of Texas once again why they have been voting Republican for the last 20 years,” Smith said.

The Fox News Research Team reported that the Democratic party needed 23 seats to take back the House, and 25 of the districts on the ballot were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. While on the Senate side, Democrats needed only two seats to gain control but were defending 26 seats on the ballot. President Trump won 10 of those districts back in 2016. Despite these statistics, voters were energized. In Travis County alone, 200 more votes were cast in the early voting period than were cast in 2016.

Media coverage of the midterms had been more focused on the tight Senate race between Cruz and O’Rourke. Smith said Republican voters were enthusiastic about the whole ballot.

“There is extraordinary enthusiasm on the Republican side not only for Ted Cruz but for the entire ticket,” said Smith.

Although many fired- up Democrats went to the polls only to vote for O’Rourke, many voted a straight ticket giving the party the turn-out it needed to be competitive.

Some anticipated that this election would be the beginning of a nationwide “Blue Wave.” Still, with O’Rourke’s defeat, the wave wasn’t big enough for many.

First time voter, Lillian Hickman, a freshman at St. Edward’s who attended a bipartisan voter watch party at Space Twentyfour Twenty, was excited to be a part of this year’s election.

“I’ll be disappointed if Beto loses because there is a lot of moral issues up on the ballot this year,” she said.

All losses aside, Democrats are looking to the future after O’Rourke’s historical campaign.

“This close race gave me a lot of hope for Texas and the United States’ future as we prepare for 2020” said Romero.

O’Rourke’s campaign energized a party that historically did not vote in the midterms. Looking at voter turnout in the past 30 years, it’s clear that Democrats don’t show up in the midterms. By only losing by four points, he showed that Texas is no longer a lost cause for Democrats. In a state that has always been easily taken by the GOP, Beto closed the gap and invigorated young voters.

“Beto’s a strong candidate and I agree with the hype the Democratic party put behind him,” said Hickman.