For the last two years, the most fiercely fought contest in Texas politics has been the Democrats’ effort to take control of the Texas House. Buoyed by flipping 12 seats to their column in 2018 and believing they could ride a demographic wave to increased power, Democrats and their PACs spent tens of millions of dollars in this effort.
In 2018, 27 Texas House districts were decided by under 10 percentage points. We’ve been closely tracking the donations and spending in those races in our Battleground 2020 series.
After all the money and chatter, the balance of power in the Texas House remained exactly the same, with Republicans in control. Democrats gained one seat, but so did Republicans. Texas House Rep. Sarah Davis (HD 134), ranked as the most liberal member of the Republican caucus, lost her seat to Democrat Ann Johnson. In the other column, former Texas House Rep. Mike Schofield, a Republican, won the seat back from Democrat Gina Calanni (HD 132).
|House District||2020 Winner||Incumbent/Challenger/Other||Percentage of Victory 2020*||Biggest Spender in this Race?||TUSA Pre-Election Prediction (✔ if correct)|
|26||Jacey Jetton (R)||Open Seat Winner|
|Yes||Likely Republican ✔|
|28||Gary Gates (R)||Special Election Winner**||10.58%||Yes||Likely Republican ✔|
|45||Erin Zweiner (D)||Incumbent Winner||1.08%||Yes||Toss-Up|
|47||Vikki Goodwin (D)||Incumbent Winner||0.98%||No||Leans Democrat ✔|
|52||James Talarico (D)||Incumbent Winner||2.88%||Yes||Likely Democrat ✔|
|54||Brad Buckley (R)||Incumbent Winner||7.02%||No||Likely Republican ✔|
|64||Lynn Stucky (R)||Incumbent Winner||9.84%||Yes||Toss-Up|
|65||Michelle Beckley (D)||Incumbent Winner||3.00%||Yes||Leans Republican|
|66||Matt Shaheen (R)||Incumbent Winner||1.21%||Yes||Leans Democrat|
|67||Jeff Leach (R)||Incumbent Winner||3.60%||No||Likely Republican ✔|
|92||Jeff Cason (R)||Open Seat Winner||3.81%||Yes||Toss-Up|
|93||Matt Krause (R)||Incumbent Winner||9.16%||Yes||Leans Republican ✔|
|94||Tony Tinderholt (R)||Incumbent Winner||5.16%||Yes||Leans Republican ✔|
|96||David Cook (R)||Challenger Winner||5.09%||No||Leans Republican ✔|
|97||Craig Goldman (R)||Incumbent Winner||7.51%||Yes||Toss-Up|
|102||Ana-Maria Ramos (D)||Incumbent Winner||7.82%||No||Leans Democrat ✔|
|105||Terry Meza (D)||Incumbent Winner||12.91%||Yes||Leans Democrat ✔|
|108||Morgan Meyer (R)||Incumbent Winner||1.62%||Yes||Leans Republican ✔|
|112||Angie Chen Button (R)||Incumbent Winner||0.33%||No||Toss-Up|
|113||Rhetta Bowers (D)||Incumbent Winner||3.54%||Yes||Likely Republican|
|121||Steve Allison (R)||Incumbent Winner||7.06%||No||Toss-Up|
|126||Sam Harless (R)||Incumbent Winner||6.60%||No||Leans Republican ✔|
|132||Mike Schofield (R)||Challenger Winner||3.71%||No||Leans Democrat|
|134||Ann Johnson (D)||Challenger Winner||4.60%||Yes||Leans Democrat ✔|
|135||Jon Rosenthal (D)||Incumbent Winner||0.43%||Yes||Toss-Up|
|136||John Bucy (D)||Incumbent Winner||10.21%||Yes||Likely Democrat ✔|
|138||Lacey Hull (R)||Open Seat Winner||3.24%||No||Leans Democrat|
Overall, the battleground results show candidates who outspent their opponents had a better election night, claiming victory 63 percent of the time, or in 17 of 27 these battleground races. This is a lower correlation than for all the legislative elections combined, where the candidate who spent most won 91 percent of those races.
In fact, since the money spent by the campaign does not include money spent by friendly PACs or independent expenditures on the candidate’s behalf, the correlation between money spent and a win is even lower. Incumbency remains the strongest predictor of victory. In races with an incumbent, he or she won 92 percent of the time.
A few weeks ago, we thought it would be fun to make our own predictions about who would win these battleground races. Since our expertise is campaign finance, we based our predictions primarily on an examination of the money in the races. We also paid close attention to the number of donations from citizens inside the candidates’ district, the margin of victory from 2018, and the advantages of incumbency. In the 20 races not listed as toss-ups, our predictions were accurate in 15 of the races. In the 7 races we listed as toss-ups, Republicans won 5 contests, while Democrats won the remaining 2 races. (You can see how we did in each individual race in the chart above, but we predicted that more than two districts would flip one way or the other). While we enjoyed a 75 percent accuracy rate — certainly better than many pollsters fared in 2020 — we’ll likely stick to analyzing the money and letting you draw your own conclusions.
For a full breakdown of the money raised and spent by candidates in these 27 races and other House races across Texas, visit our Election Races page.