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Dallas was a cradle for the modern Republican Party. Captain J.F. Lucey, a Dallas oilman and nationally prominent Republican, founded the Republican Club of Texas in 1947, which was the forerunner of the current Republican Party of Texas. Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Cox carried the county in 1962, and presidential nominee Richard Nixon won Dallas Co. in 1968. In 1966, Dallas Co. elected Sen. Ike Harris (R-Dallas), who was one of just two Republicans to enter a chamber that, the session before, had been entirely Democratic.

In 1972, six Republican freshmen were elected from Dallas Co., representing half of all incoming Republicans in a year that saw their caucus grow to 17 members from just five. Among the existing five were Rep. Fred Agnich (R-Dallas), who was first elected two years earlier. In the Senate, the lone Republican had been Sen. Ike Harris (R-Dallas) until a pair of Republicans were elected from Fort Worth and Houston.

Since then, Dallas Co. has sent at least seven Republicans to the Texas House, and SD16 has been held by a Dallas Co. Republican since Sen. John Leedom (R-Dallas) was elected in 1980.

There will be just two Republicans representing Dallas Co. in the Texas House of Representatives next year, and Nathan Johnson ended the Republicans’ 38-year tenure in SD16.

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Reps. Angie Chen Button (R-Garland) and Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) survived a night that saw three Republican incumbents defeated and two open seats flip to the Democrats. Two of those three incumbents – Reps. Rodney Anderson (R-Grand Prairie) and Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) – and Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale), who was not on the ballot this year, survived in 2016 despite facing a deficit in straight-party voting.

They and other Republicans, including Rep. Linda Koop (R-Dallas), were overwhelmed by straight-party deficits this year. Democrats had at least a four-digit straight-party vote advantage in every House district in the county except for HD108, where straight-party Republican voters cast 133 more votes than the Democrats (The Republican advantage was nearly 6K votes in 2016.). Unofficial election returns painted a grim picture in most Republican-held districts:

  • HD102: 3,833-vote Democratic advantage (Koop lost by 3,181)
  • HD105: 4,746-vote Democratic advantage (Anderson lost by 4,200)
  • HD108: 133-vote Republican advantage (Meyer won by 440 votes)
  • HD112: 1,329-vote Democratic advantage (Button won by 1,140 votes).
  • HD113: 3,174-vote Democratic advantage (Jonathan Boos lost by 3,653)
  • HD114: 1,919-vote Democratic advantage (Lisa Luby Ryan lost by 7,343); and
  • HD115: 4,149-vote Democratic advantage (Rinaldi lost by 7,606).

Anderson (52%), Button (58%), Koop (52%) and Meyer (50.5%) won a majority of the full-ballot voters. Boos (48%), Rinaldi (40%) and Ryan (39%) lost further ground among full-ballot voters. In 2016, Anderson needed 62% of the full-ballot vote to eke out a 64-vote victory, and Rinaldi received 57% of the full-ballot vote, comfortably over the 54% he needed. Both lost double-digit support among full-ballot voters this time. Boos and Ryan also fared considerably worse among full-ballot voters than Burkett and Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) in 2016. That’s also true for Deanna Metzger, the Republican nominee in HD107, who lost the full-ballot vote, 56%-44%, on top of a more than 5K-vote straight-party deficit.

As an aside, while we will never know for sure, we contend that Villalba would have been re-elected had he been the Republican nominee. Villalba, who has consistently outperformed other Republicans in his district, received 68% of the full-ballot vote in 2016. Even if his performance among full-ballot voters declined by as many as 13 points, he still would have overcome the straight-party voting disadvantage Ryan faced.

Maps of the precinct-level growth of the Democratic straight-party vote in 2014 and 2018 are striking. Dozens of precincts that had a majority-Republican straight-party vote in 2016 flipped.

Map of precinct-level straight-party vote in 2014 and 2018

Overall, unofficial election results indicate 325K people voted straight-party Democratic, up from 145K in 2014, and 174K people voted straight-party Republican, up from 119K four years earlier. More tellingly, about 7K more people cast a straight-party Democratic vote than in 2016, while about 9K fewer people cast a straight-party Republican vote.

This had obvious consequences farther down the ballot. Democrats won every contested countywide election, including John Creuzot’s win over Sheriff Faith Johnson, whom Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed to the post in December 2016. Dallas Co. Comm. J.J. Koch (R) was re-elected, 52%-45%, to his normally solidly Republican district. It includes most of Button and Meyer’s districts and the more heavily Republican portions of Burkett and Rinaldi’s districts.

What remains to be seen is if Dallas Co. becomes the beginning of a Democratic resurgence. The Democratic brand, still in shambles in rural and East Texas, is growing stronger here, particularly among urban and suburban Anglo voters, especially women, and young voters. Importantly, Rep.-elect John Turner is among the first male Anglo Democrats* elected to the House in 10 years, and Sen.-elect Nathan Johnson is the first male Anglo Democrat elected to the Senate in 12 years. Longtime Capitol observers will recall the WD-40s, a group of White (male) Democrats over age 40 that withstood several waves of Republican advancements before finally succumbing, through retirements and defeats (and a party switch), at the beginning of this decade.

Nine of the 14-member Dallas Co. House delegation will be women: Button, Reps. Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) and Toni Rose (D-Dallas), and Reps.-elect Rhetta Bowers (D-Rowlett), Jessica González (D-Dallas), Julie Johnson (D-Addison), Terry Meza (D-Irving), and Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson). The ethnic breakdown of the House delegation will be three Anglos, five African-Americans, four Hispanics/Latinos and one Asian-American, making it one of the most diverse in the state. González and Johnson are openly LBGTQ.

We expected Dallas Co. to be the epicenter of whatever Democratic wave would appear on Election Day. While that wave may not have overcome the red Republican seawall, it swamped the lower-lying Republican districts, ending, at least for now, a 46-year Republican grip on its former nursery.

* Turner is joined here by Reps.-elect John Bucy (D-Cedar Park), Jon Rosenthal (D-Housto) and James Talarico (D-Round Rock).

©2018 Texas Election Source LLC