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West of Washington by @BloggersRUs

West of Washington

by Tom Sullivan

Congress bids dasvidanya to Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California's 48th District. As Tuesday's votes came in on Saturday, the Associated Press projects the famously Russophile Orange County congressman lost his seat to Democrat real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda. A "landmark shift away from the GOP for suburban America," according to the Los Angeles Times. No county "has been at the heart of conservatism since the 1960s" like Orange County. John Wayne country.

But in American iconography, Texas might have a stronger claim to being John Wayne country. Things are changing out there too.

Democrats' number of state trifectas nearly doubled in the 2018 elections. That is, the party controlling the governorship and state legislative chambers. Republicans held 26 to Democrats' 8 Tuesday morning. By the end of vote-counting, Democrats' count went from 8 to 14. Texas was not one of those, and probably will not be for a long time.

Yet despite Beto O'Rourke's narrow loss in Texas's U.S. Senate contest to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, shifts seen in Orange County have their counterpart in Texas. O'Rourke's campaign proved that much.

Christopher Hooks writes in The Atlantic O'Rourke has reanimated the Democratic Party in Texas. Among the bad takes on the Texas race was that O'Rourke had gone too far left to attract Republican voters:

Dead wrong, it turns out—it looks like some 400,000 people voted for both Abbott and O’Rourke. O’Rourke wasn’t a wild-eyed lefty or a dead-eyed centrist. He was a former small-business owner who came to Congress by beating a Democratic incumbent in his primary from the right, and who spoke passionately about liberal causes while mostly avoiding specific policy prescriptions. He was pro-immigration and pro-trade, which is to say that he had common cause with the left-wingers at the Texas Association of Business.

O’Rourke was a Texas liberal, a member of a long-standing political tradition. The main difference between O’Rourke and previous Democratic candidates is that people liked him a lot. When he spoke to crowds, he talked of our obligations to one another, patriotism, public service, and investment in public projects. It may have been momentarily shocking for political reporters to hear a Texan running for office talking about marijuana, or the principle of universal health care. But 53 percent of Texans support legalizing pot, according to polling from the University of Texas, and 46 percent say that they support a “single national health insurance system run by the government.” A broad semiautomatic weapons ban only pulls 40 percent, but you could make a case that Cruz is the one who’s more out of step—a significant majority of Texans favor requiring criminal and mental-health background checks for all gun sales, including private ones.

Moreover, 51 percent of native-born Texans said they voted for O'Rourke in exit polls. It was the closest Senate race Texans had seen in 40 years, writes AP's Paul Weber:
On the surface, Texas didn’t change much after Tuesday. Republicans continued a 24-year streak of sweeping statewide races and lost only two seats in Congress, both of which had already been trending toward Democrats. The GOP also still comfortably controls the Texas Legislature, even after losing a dozen seats in what was the biggest single-year pickup by Democrats in decades.

But Republicans’ big margins shrank in a number of places.

Typically easy wins in five congressional districts around Austin, Dallas and Houston were sliced to within 5 percentage points this time. The driving social conservative force in the Legislature, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, won just over 51 percent of the vote in his first election since pushing a failed North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” that would have required transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. Not surviving, however, was a Republican who carried the bill in the House.

Control of state legislatures shifted towards Democrats last week. Even in deep-red Idaho, Democrats upset Republicans, picking up three seats in the Idaho House and one in the Senate. A second state senate seat in which the Democrat lost by six votes goes to a recount. Maybe not in Idaho, but elsewhere Democrats have more chances of advancing their own legislative agendas, and will be better positioned to roll back Republican gerrymandering by 2021. Republicans control redistricting in 16 states and Democrats in seven, Pew's Stateline reports. More states are moving to a nonpartisan redistricting process.

Pew continues:

The Democratic power surge in statehouses and governors’ offices will boost a host of progressive priorities, including health care, school spending, gun control, environmental protection and voting rights — even as divided government causes gridlock in Washington.

In at least seven states, Democratic governors succeed Republicans. And the party flipped at least 350 state legislative seats from red to blue. During the eight-year Obama administration, the Democrats lost nearly 900 state legislative seats, allowing Republicans in many states to cut taxes, restrict access to abortion and stiffen voter ID laws with little Democratic resistance.

That is set to change for at least two years. More, if Democrats wisely leverage their wins.