The Beto phenomenon

Although he lost his race against Ted Cruz for the senate seat in Texas, Beto O’Rourke ran a spirited campaign in this deep red state and came close, and by inspiring increased Democratic voter turnout, likely helped other Democrats in down ballot races defeat incumbent Republicans. One little noticed result is that 19 black women ran for judge positions in Harris County and all of them won. That was not all.

Democrats won all 59 judicial races in Harris county in Tuesday’s midterm elections. In one of the most eye-catching and significant results, the longtime incumbent Republican county judge, Ed Emmett – in effect, the county’s chief executive – lost to Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old first-time candidate who immigrated from Colombia as a teenager.

The morning after the election, Glenn Devlin, a juvenile court judge in Houston who is one of the defeated Republicans, reportedly released most of the defendants who appeared in front of him after asking them whether they planned to kill anyone.

Reporter Ed Pilkington writes that Democrats see a bright future for O’Rourke in the way he inspired so many people with his youthful energy and positive outlook.

When Beto O’Rourke, the punk rock guitarist turned US congressman for the distant border town of El Paso, announced in March 2017 that he was going to run for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in Texas, the spokesman for the state’s Republican party quipped: “Who?”

No one is asking who Beto O’Rourke is now. He may have lost his plucky bid to win the first statewide election in Texas as a Democrat since 1994, but he came so close that he thoroughly wiped the smirks off Republican faces.

Less than three percentage points separated the incumbent senator and his insurgent challenger – 50.9% Cruz, 48.3% O’Rourke – 222,922 votes out of more than 8m cast.

For O’Rourke it marks a phenomenal achievement. In just 19 months, almost unassisted, he took the Texan Democratic party from its virtually moribund condition, gave it a stiff dose of adrenalin, and brought it back to life.

For Texas, and for the US, the fact that O’Rourke came within striking distance represents something even bigger – the hope that the second largest state in the union might finally be freeing itself from the iron grip of the Republican party.

Samantha Bee, like pretty much everyone else, sent reporters out to Texas to survey the O’Rourke and Cruz camps. (Language advisory)


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