Election 2020

Huge Upset for GOP in Texas: State Senate Seat Flips Red for First Time in 139 Years

Huge Upset for GOP in Texas: State Senate Seat Flips Red for First Time in 139 Years
Republican Pete Flores, center, stands with his daughter Vicky, left, and state Sen. Donna Campbell, right. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

In a major upset Tuesday night, voters elected a conservative political newcomer to the Texas Senate, flipping a Democratic district red for the first time in 139 years.

Retired game warden Pete Flores defeated former state and U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego in the runoff election for the Senate District 19 seat in San Antonio, further increasing the Republicans’ supermajority in the chamber ahead of the November elections. Flores will replace Democrat state Sen. Carlos Uresti, who was forced to step down in June after being sentenced to 12 years in prison on federal fraud and money laundering charges.

This seat wasn’t supposed to be competitive. It went 54-42 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 55-44 for Barack Obama in 2012. 

Flores reportedly received “backing from some of the state’s most prominent politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and U.S. Sens John Cornyn and Ted Cruz,” according to MySA.com. He was also likely a beneficiary of a superior ground game, as the GOP has outraised Democrats and radically upped their ground game in recent years.

“We conservatives are conservative in the way we make approaches. The gun fight’s not over until the last shot’s fired,” Flores told the Express-News after Gallego conceded in a phone call just before 9 p.m. “The last shot’s been fired.”

In his victory speech, Flores spoke of the historic significance of his win.

“This district has not been Republican since Reconstruction. And in September of 2018, it’s Republican once again,” Flores told supporters. “The work starts tomorrow.”

One of the problems Democrat candidates lower on the ballot have is getting attention in Texas. Apparently, Beto O’Rourke, who’s running against Republican Ted Cruz for the U.S. Senate, is sucking all of the oxygen out of the state’s Democratic Party resources.

“It’s a major problem when you need to go and educate your own party about the subtleties of this race but you can’t get attention because Beto is so exciting,” Sawyer said in a recent interview with The Texas Tribune. 

Some candidates for the state legislature are complaining that in their excitement to flip Congress, Democrat donors have neglected lower-ballot races.