The seat, in what had been a reliably Democratic district, was won by political newcomer Peter Flores, a retired game warden, who defeated Democrat Peter Gallego, a former U.S. representative. The upset further eroded hopes of a purported “blue wave” touted by Democrats.
Flores is the first Hispanic Republican to serve in the state Senate and is the first Republican to be elected in Senate District 19 since 1874. The last Republican to hold the seat was Andrew Phelps McCormick, who left office in 1879, according to the Legislative Library of Texas.
Flores won 53 percent of the vote (23,576) compared to 47 percent (20,911) for Gallego, according to BallotPedia.
“We did it!” he wrote on Twitter on Sept. 18, the night of his victory, while thanking other Republicans who had supported him. The upset helps solidify the GOP’s control in Texas, giving them 21 out of the state’s 31 Senate seats.
There was no official statement from Gallego, Flores’s opponent, who wrote in a Facebook post a day after the election that he wanted to give “A heartfelt thanks to all of you who have helped and supported my family & me throughout my journey.”
Flores retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife agency in 2012, according to his official campaign website. He holds conservative stances on issues such as taxes, energy, the constitution, and gun rights.
“Pete Flores will help keep Texas the greatest state in America,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter on election night.
“The 17 County District has flipped from blue to red. @PeteFlores_TX is going to make a great senator & work hard for the people of SD 19,” Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas said. “I am proud to have endorsed him.”
Flores and Gallego competed in the Sept. 18 runoff after emerging from an eight-candidate field in first and second place, respectively, in July’s special election to replace former state Sen. Carlos Uresti. The longtime lawmaker vacated the seat in June after being convicted of 11 felony charges.
In a Sept. 19 opinion piece, Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich further dismissed any talk of an electoral “blue wave.”
“Flores, a political newcomer competing against a seasoned former Democratic congressman, won in a district that is 73 percent Hispanic and African American—despite virtually all political analysts’ expectations,” Gingrich wrote for Fox News.
“Republicans everywhere should study this Texas state special election and make the 2018 midterms a big choice election for all American voters,” he added. “And with only 48 days left until November 6, they must act now.”
Meanwhile, in Texas, incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is being challenged by Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the upcoming general election. According to a Sept. 18 poll by RealClearPolitics, Cruz is leading by about 5 percent.