(CN) – Senator Ted Cruz ended Democrats’ hopes of regaining control of the U.S. Senate Tuesday night after defeating Democrat Beto O’Rourke in one of the most closely watched and expensive midterm races in the country.
While Texas Democrats failed to end their 24-year streak of constant statewide electoral losses, they were able to pick up at least two U.S. House seats and helped elect the state’s first two Latinas to Congress.
But the race on most voters’ mind in Texas was the Cruz-O’Rourke match-up.
Cruz burst onto the political scene under the national Tea Party movement in 2012 and quickly rose to become a symbol of the conservative agenda, championing issues like gun rights, border security and freedom. A former foe of President Donald Trump during the 2016 primary election, Cruz clung tightly to the president’s positions on most issues and relied heavily on the support of the deep-rooted Republican establishment in Texas.
But O’Rourke, who amassed an astonishing $70 million campaign war chest that shattered national fundraising records, came just shy of catching the blue wave that Texas Democrats hoped would propel him to victory in the ruby red state.
While his name didn’t appear on the ballot, Trump still loomed large over the midterm races and on the minds of voters as they stood in line to cast ballots at polling sites from McAllen to Dallas, Houston to West Texas.
“I like Ted’s policies,” said Javi Gonzalez, 34, a small business owner in McAllen who voted for Cruz while his wife, whose parents are migrants, voted for O’Rourke.
“I like that he wants to repeal Obamacare. I like how he feels that there should be limited government in business, less regulation,” Gonzalez said.
Michael Hunter, a 43-year-old mechanic from Dallas, said he supports Cruz over O’Rourke because of his role in passing last year’s tax cuts, and for his support of Trump on securing Texas’ border with Mexico.
“No sensible person opposes legal immigration, immigrants are engrained in this community,” Hunter said. “I do not understand why some people say that wanting to secure the border and halt illegal immigration is somehow racist.”
Joseph Benito, 34, who identified himself as Mexican-American, said he was at Austin’s Dittmar Recreational Center “to vote against anyone who is pro-Trump.”
“Trump’s immigration policy I feel is a slap in the face to my people,” Benito said.
“Ted Cruz is the perfect example of what is wrong with politics today,” said Philip Matthews, 28, of Austin. “He has no integrity. He only called in Trump to stump for him when he was scared to lose, despite what Trump said about him and his wife. I believe Beto has more integrity than that.”
In two history-making races, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will become the first two Latinas elected to Congress from Texas.
Escobar, 49, a former El Paso county judge, will take O’Rourke’s 16th District seat in Congress after receiving 68 percent of the vote, to Republican Rick Seeberger’s 26 percent.
Garcia, 68, a licensed attorney and former Houston city judge, handily won election to the Houston-based 29th District against Republican Phillip Aronoff. Retiring Democratic Congressman Gene Green did not seek re-election.
Colin Allred, a civil rights lawyer and former professional football player, is on track to flip the Dallas-area 32nd Congressional District, an evolving district that rejected President Donald Trump by one point in 2016.
Allred, a former Obama administration official who campaigned largely on healthcare reform, led Republican Rep. Pete Sessions by seven percentage points by 10 p.m. CST.
First elected in 2002, Sessions focused his campaign’s closing arguments on the high-flying economy and benefits of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He tweeted his approval of the October jobs report on Monday, touting 250,000 in new jobs added, a 3.7 percent unemployment rate and 3.1 percent wage growth.
Voters were greeted by sunshine and no lines at the Richardson Independent School District Academy in Dallas midmorning Tuesday. Shayna Miller, a 31-year-old homemaker, said she voted for Allred because she views healthcare as the most important issue in this election.
“I don’t believe Republicans when they say they will protect coverage for pre-existing conditions,” Miller said. “Sessions has voted for years against Obamacare, I’m not buying it.”
In Texas’ 7th District, Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher prevailed in her challenge against Republican Rep. John Culberson in western Harris County, where she kept a narrow lead throughout the night.
Technical issues at nine voting locations in the Houston area spurred a Tuesday afternoon lawsuit against Harris County over its “unlawful delay in opening several polling locations.” A judge ordered the county to keep the affected locations open until 8pm after voters reported early morning delays of up to an hour.
Texas voters came out in record numbers to cast ballots in the election with nearly 4.9 million Texans voting early, more than all ballots cast in the 2014 midterms.
And while Democrats mounted a vigorous political fight, they were still unable to capture enough votes to topple Republicans from every statewide office.
Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton each coasted to re-election over their Democratic rivals. Paxton held onto his post despite serving the majority of his first term in office under criminal indictment for securities fraud.
(Courthouse News reporters James Palmer, Daniel Conrad, Kelsey Jukam, David Lee, Natalie Krebbs, Jeremy Choate and Sarah Flores contributed to this report.)