GOP reclaims House, fails to secure Senate

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As Republicans trounced Democrats nationwide on Tuesday night — reclaiming control of the U.S. House of Representatives — two Texas Democratic incumbents also lost their bids for re-election. But Democrats maintained a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate.

With 98 percent of the votes reported, San Antonio Republican Francisco Canseco led the race for U.S. Congressional District 23, which spans from El Paso to San Antonio, by 5.1 percent. Canseco ousted Democratic incumbent Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat who served two terms.

UT public affairs lecturer Sherri Greenberg said the district is more marginal, but leans Republican because of its large, varied demographic. President Barack Obama won 51 percent of the district’s vote during the 2008 presidential election, while 57 percent voted for former President George W. Bush in 2004.

Voters in District 17, which includes Waco and Bryan, removed 10-term Rep. Chet Edwards in favor of Republican challenger Bill Flores by 44,000 votes.

Greenberg said the Waco-based seat has been a difficult one for a Democrat to retain since the mid-decade redistricting in 2004, which gave Republicans an advantage in the district.

“When redistricting was done again, the seat was drawn for a Republican,” she said. “Through work and will, Edwards has held on to it, but it wasn’t enough for him this time. I think the Republican tide combined with the Republican district is too much to overcome for Edwards.”

Saint Mary’s University government professor Henry Flores said the anti-incumbent atmosphere and voters’ frustrations could have led to Edward’s demise. Henry Flores said he expects congressional gridlock and the new Republican leadership to elect a Republican president in 2012.

“In the bigger picture of things, I don’t think much is going to happen in Washington,” he said. “With a fairly activist Republican House, because of new Tea Party settlers, they’re going to be putting proposals in that counter Obama’s agenda. Obama is going to start putting forth policies, forcing the Republicans to take some very dramatic stands on issues that they will look so bad to the American public.”

Henry Flores said Republicans are likely to raise the issues of extending the Bush tax cuts and to reduce government spending, while the Democrats, under Obama, will push for immigration reform.

“There is going to be a lot of drama and attacking and counterattacking,” he said. “The American people are going to suffer because things just won’t get done.”

The 2010 midterm election season has been the most expensive to date, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research organization that studies the role of money in U.S. politics. District 17 was the ninth most costly race, with Edwards and Flores raising about a total of $6 million and spending about $5 million.

“Both of the candidates are well above the average mark for money spent,” said the center’s spokesman David Levinthal. “The average winner of a House race in 2008 spent about $1.4 million in victory. Both of these guys, through Oct. 15, had spent more than $2.5 million.”

The District 17 race also ranked high among the House races that have attracted outside spending, such as from American Crossroads, a political organization former Bush political adviser Karl Rove created to support conservative candidates and issues, Levinthal said. According to the center’s website, Flores raised a total of nearly $644,000 from outside spending, and Edwards nearly $892,000.

“If Republicans can pick [Edwards] off, they’ve scored a major moral and political victory for themselves, in addition to the very practical victory of getting another House seat in an election year where every single vote counts,” he said.

— Additional reporting contributed by Andrew Kreighbaum