DALLAS - In one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, incumbent Republican Sen.Ted Cruz held on to his seat and defeated his Democratic challenger, Beto O'Rourke.
It was a tight race all night. Early returns even had O'Rourke ahead of Cruz for a while. But ultimately Cruz was reelected for a second term with 51 percent of the votes. O'Rourke only secured 48 percent.
O'Rourke congratulated Cruz on his victory and wished him well going forward. In his speech, he talked about what Texans can do to help Cruz gain public trust to ensure Texas helps lead the country in a way that brings people back together.
"I will work with him. I'll work with anyone, anytime, anywhere to make sure in the same way that you've been there for us that now that we can be there for you… not as Democrats, not as Republicans but as Texans and as Americans," O'Rourke said.
Cruz said Texas came together for a common sense agenda, low tax, low regulation and lots of jobs. He also congratulated O'Rourke for inspiring millions with his campaign.
"Texas saw something this year that we've never seen before. This election wasn't about me and it wasn't about O'Rourke. This election was a battle of ideas. It was a contest of who we are and what we believe. It was a contest, and the people of Texas decided this race" Sen. Cruz said.
A three-term House member and onetime member of a punk rock band, O'Rourke was virtually unknown outside his Texas-Mexico border hometown of El Paso before announcing in March 2017 that he was taking on a seemingly unwinnable race against Cruz. A Democrat hasn't won a Texas Senate seat since 1988, and no one from the party has captured any statewide office since 1994, the nation's longest political losing streak.
But O'Rourke visited all 254 Texas counties and often drew larger-than-expected crowds, even in fiercely conservative areas. Preaching optimism and bipartisanship, he also refused to soften a liberal agenda that included calling for impeaching President Donald Trump, decriminalizing marijuana, implementing universal health care and gun control and relaxing federal immigration policies.
O'Rourke's once-longshot bid for the U.S. Senate turned into a legitimate threat to Cruz, shocking political observers and energizing voters on both sides of the aisle in the Lone Star State.
The two candidates squared off in their hard-fought race that could help determine control of the Senate. Both said strong early voting statewide was a good sign for them. Early voting in the state's 30 largest counties alone already exceeded the total number of ballots cast during the 2014 midterm elections in Texas.
In North Texas, early voting results had O'Rourke with a strong lead in Dallas County with 66 percent compared to Cruz's 34 percent. In Tarrant and Collin counties, Cruz had the early lead with 50 percent and 53 percent respectively. O'Rourke was behind Cruz with 49 percent of the early votes in Tarrant County and 46 percent in Collin County.
Cruz's battle with O'Rourke proved that many Texas conservatives remained angry after Cruz clashed bitterly with Trump in 2016 and refused to endorse him during the Republican National Convention. Though the senator has since become one of Trump's staunchest defenders, the president nonetheless staged a massive rally in Houston just two weeks before Election Day to ensure his conservative base wouldn't abandon Cruz.
As Cruz has embraced the White House, O'Rourke concentrated on mobilizing young voters, Texans living along the U.S.-Mexico border and people who moved to the state from elsewhere.
He said he hopes his bid will pave the way for future Democrats to win statewide.
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