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Trump takes Texas as GOP extends streak

Profile image for By Will Weissert
By Will Weissert

AUSTIN — Texas stayed as reliably conservative as ever Tuesday on a big night for Republicans nationally, with Donald Trump locking up its 38 presidential electoral votes and a party-switching judge losing his re-election bid to ensure that a Democrat still hasn’t won statewide office in a worst-in-the-nation 22 years and counting.

Trump appeared on pace for a margin of victory below 10 percentage points — a relatively narrow win considering that every GOP White House nominee since 2000 had coasted to double-digit romps in America’s largest red state. But the race also wasn’t as close as some polling last month, which suggested Hillary Clinton could actually get within striking distance.

And the results answered lingering questions about whether traditional Texas Republicans would embrace such a bombastic and nontraditional candidate.

Even former President and Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, declined to vote for Trump, “choosing none of the above” on early ballots they cast two weeks ago, according to spokesman Freddy Ford.

Clinton had hoped to pull off an upset after Trump’s repeated insults of Latinos, his promises to build a towering wall along the entire 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and his harsh immigration rhetoric. Texas’ 10.2 million Hispanics represent 39 percent of the state’s population, but only about 5 million are eligible to vote as U.S. citizens 18 or older. Associated Press exit polling showed that roughly six in 10 Texas Hispanic voters were backing Clinton — but it wasn’t enough.

Meanwhile, not all Texas Hispanics favored Clinton. Clemente Ruiz, a Lubbock truck driver, said he agreed with Trump on many hot-button topics: “I’m 100 percent for the border, for the fence, and I’m for militarizing the border.”

Democrats still looked for a potential bright spot in a West Texas congressional district sprawling from San Antonio to suburban El Paso and encompassing 800-plus miles of largely sparsely populated U.S.-Mexico border. There, former Democratic congressman Pete Gallego was locked in a dead-heat with Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who unseated him two years ago.

Texas’ other 35 congressional races weren’t competitive. All Texas House seats and 16 state Senate seats were also on the ballot — though both chambers will remain comfortably Republican-controlled when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and other top statewide officials aren’t up for re-election until 2018.