Cruz wins another US Senate term, Republicans dominate local races

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(KWTX) Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz survived a challenge from Democratic Congressman Beto O’ Rourke Tuesday, and Republicans came close to a clean sweep of Central Texas races.

U.S. Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas (left) and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, debated for the first time on Friday Sept. 21, 2018. (CNN VAN photo)

(Election Results)

“Thank you, Texas!” Cruz tweeted.

“Now let's get back to work to defend jobs, freedom, and security for Texas and America!”

Cruz told supporters O'Rourke "worked tirelessly" and that millions of people across the state were "inspired by his campaign."

He said that "Texas saw something this year that we've never seen before."

"This election was not about me, and it was not about Beto O’Rourke. This election was a battle of ideas, it was a contest for who we are and what we believe. It was a contest and the people of Texas decided this race," he said.

Ultimately, he says, Texans came together behind "a common-sense agenda of low taxes, low regulations, and lots and lots of jobs."

O’Rourke said he called Cruz to congratulate him on the win and wish him well.

“I want to work with him, I want to work with anyone to make sure we can lead on that,” he said.

Nationally Republicans maintained control of the U.S. Senate, but Democrats took control of the House.

O’Rourke, despite the loss, had what could be a lasting impact on politics in Texas.

"We haven't felt something like this for maybe two decades," said McLennan Community College history professor Ashley Cruseturner.

"Beto made a boldly progressive move where he did something that nobody had tried to do in Texas for a long time and came out unapologetically Democrat and really scrambled this race."

Meanwhile Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won a second term Tuesday.

The Associated Press declared Abbott the winner over Democrat Lupe Valdez and Libertarian Mark Tippetts at around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Abbott, 60, says it's time for Texans to "work side by side" following a divisive midterm campaign season.

He says that Texans must remember that "what unities us as Texans is far greater than our differences."

“Thank you for your trust,” he told supporters Tuesday night.

“Know this; I will never stop fighting for you and your families as we continue to make Texas the premiere state in America.

“Moments ago I received a phone call from Sheriff Lupe Valdez sending on her congratulations about the victory and I thanked her, but I also told her what I want to tell all Texans and that is whether or not you voted for me or against me or didn't vote at all I'm going to go to work every single day working for everybody and this great state.”

Valdez congratulated Abbott.

"I wish him well during his next four years and hope that he will continue to work hard and make sure all Texans are heard," she said.

Republicans have kept a grip on the Texas governor's mansion since 1994.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick defeated Democrat Mike Collier and Libertarian Kerry McKennon to win another term.

U.S. House races

Five area congressional races were also contested.

The one that attracted the most attention was for the Dist. 31 seat in the U.S. House in which Air Force veteran MJ Hegar was challenging veteran Republican incumbent John Carter in a district that includes Williamson County and most of Bell County.

The Associated Press declared Carter the winner at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I am so proud of the campaign we built," Hegar said in a statement.

"I am proud of the voters we registered who voted for the first time. I am proud of the way we rose above partisanship and inspired people from both sides of the aisle to find places we could agree," she said.

"While things didn’t go as we hoped, we gave it our all and left nothing on the field. We ran a clean and honest campaign, and I have no regrets."

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, whose district includes McLennan, Falls, Freestone, Leon, Limestone, Milam, Robertson, Bastrop, Brazos and Travis counties, won another term Tuesday night, defeating Democrat Rick Kennedy and Libertarian Peter Churchman.

U.S. Rep Roger Williams, R-Austin, whose district includes Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Hamilton, Hill, Lampasas, Burnet, Erath, Hays, Johnson, Somervell, Tarrant and Travis counties, defeated Democrat Julie Oliver and Libertarian Desarae Lindsey.

Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, whose district includes Leon, Grimes, Harris, Houston, Madison, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Trinity and Walker counties, won another term Tuesday, defeating Democrat Steven David and Libertarian Chris Duncan.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, whose district includes Mills, San Saba and more than two-dozen other West Texas counties, won another term Tuesday, defeating Democrat Jennie Lou Leeder and Libertarian Rhett Smith.

Regional races

Republicans swept Central Texas state legislative races Tuesday.

Incumbent Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner, whose district includes Freestone, Leon, Limestone, Grimes and Brazos counties, defeated Democrat Meg Walsh and Libertarian Amy Lyons to win another term.

Voters in Freestone Hill, Navarro and Anderson counties elected Republican Cody Harris to the Dist. 8 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. He defeated Democrat Wesley Ratcliff.

Voters in Falls, Limestone, McLennan, Robertson and Brazos counties elected incumbent Republican State Rep. Kyle Kacal to another term. He defeated Democrat challenger Marianne Arnold.

Voters in Milam, Williamson and Burnet counties re-elected Republican Dist. 20 State Rep. Terry Wilson. He defeated Democrat Stephen Wyman.

Voters in Bell and Lampasas counties elected Republican Brad Buckley to the Dist. 54 seat in the Texas House. Buckley, who defeated incumbent Scott Cosper in the GOP runoff election in May, defeated Democrat Kathy Richerson Tuesday.

McLennan County voters set veteran Republican Dist. 56 State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson back to Austin for another term. He defeated Democratic challenger Katherine Turner-Pearson.

And voters in Leon, Madison, Angelina, Houston and San Augustine counties returned incumbent Republican Dist. 57 State Rep. Trent Ashby to Austin. He defeated Democrat Jason Rogers.

Democrats picked up two Republican-held state Senate seats Tuesday.

Nathan Johnson of the Dallas area and Beverly Powell of Colleyville managed wins over Republican incumbents.

Republicans still control the state Senate with a three-fifths majority with 19 members to the Democrats' 12.

According to the Texas Tribune, that gives GOP senators just enough of a majority to bring legislation to the floor without any support from Democrats, and more than enough to pass it.

However, Republican senators might have to work across the aisle to get their legislation passed if any member of their caucus opposes a bill.

County races

In addition to federal state and regional races, voters in seven Central Texas counties will decide contested races for county positions.

In Bell County, Republican David Blackburn defeated write-in candidate Ernest Wilkerson in the race for county judge and Democrat John Driver defeated incumbent Pct. 4 Commissioner John Fisher.

In Bosque County, Republican Luke Giesecke defeated Democrat John A. Hastings, Jr., in the race for County Court at Law judge and Republican Terry W. Townley defeated Democrat Edward Villalovos to win the Pct. 2 seat on the county commissioners court.

Bosque County voters also approved a hospital district proposition.

In Limestone County, incumbent Republican Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Mike Bell defeated Democrat Ray J. Black.

In McLennan County, incumbent Republican County Judge Scott Felton turned back a challenge from Democrat Rick Allen; incumbent Pct. 1 Pl. 1 Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley defeated Libertarian David Reichert; and incumbent Pct. 1 Constable Walt Strickland defeated Libertarian Anwar Elboustani.

The retirement of longtime Pct. 2 County Commissioner Lester Gibson set the stage for what turned out to be a heated race between Republican Donis “D.L.” Wilson, a retired Department of Public Safety trooper, and Patricia “Pat” Chisolm-Miller, Gibson’s longtime assistant.

Miller took an early lead and went on to win the race, becoming the first African-American woman elected to the commissioners court.

"I am humbled and numb at the thought that I am county commissioner of precinct two. I have a lot of experience working with the county and I will be ready to go to work from the very first day on the job,” she said.

Wilson was disappointed by the outcome.

"I'm really surprised,” he said.

“My numbers people thought we were going to do better."

Incumbent Republican McLennan County Pct. 1 Pl. 2 Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson, also a retired DPS trooper, defeated Libertarian Lauren Daughtery.

"I am just going to keep working hard every day, stay in the courthouse in my place and do the best job I can at serving the people of this county,” Peterson said.

In Milam County, Republican Steve Young defeated Democrat Jared Melde in the race for county judge.

Milam County voters also approved a proposition authorizing a flood control and road tax.

Residents of the small McLennan County town of Leroy rejected a proposal to un-incorporate in an 88-74 vote.

At issue in the community of 345 was a property tax imposed by the city council last year that raised homeowners’ taxes to help repair some of the streets.

Most of the support for the proposal came from residents who live along the two state highways that run through the town, which the state maintains.

(Rissa Shaw, John Carroll, Ke'Sha Lopez and Chelsea Edwards contributed to this story)