Republicans keep hold of executive seats despite wave of anti-incumbent sentiments

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Underneath the chandeliers of the Driskill Hotel, a mass of dreary Democratic candidates and supporters watched Tuesday night’s election results as Republicans kept their hold on every statewide office.

While the U.S. House of Representatives shifted control from Democratic to Republican lawmakers in a wave of anti-incumbent sentiments, Texas will see many of the same faces in its executive positions. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, State Comptroller Susan Combs, as well as the Texas land and agriculture commissioners, won re-election over their Democratic and Libertarian challengers. David Porter, the Republican candidate for railroad commissioner, defeated incumbent Victor Carrillo in the Republican primary.

Bill Minutaglio, a UT clinical professor of journalism and long-time investigative reporter for The Dallas Morning News, said he originally thought the “down-ballot” races in Texas would be closer, but Democrats inherited a tide of ill will directed at President Barack Obama. Minutaglio said the Tea Party movement equated Obama’s message of change with socialism, which meant Democrats had to change their message.

“The Democrats had their one ace pulled out of their hands,” he said.

Shortly after declaring victory, Dewhurst said the election will ultimately determine who will govern — Washington, D.C. or American citizens. He said without raising taxes, Texas will protect its essential services, create jobs and secure the borders.

“Tomorrow, we will start taking power away from Washington and put it back in the hands of the people where it belongs,” Dewhurst said. “We’ll start right here in Texas, by passing a resolution out of the Texas Senate, insisting that Washington pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.”

James Aldrete, spokesman for Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Linda Chavez-Thompson, said the fallacy of the Texas policy of balancing budgets is that it means shifting costs to families in the future rather than eliminating budget holes through cuts.

“Just because you recognize a bill on the table and don’t pay it doesn’t mean you’re being fiscally conservative or balancing a budget,” Aldrete said.

Overall, the Republican candidates boasted more financial firepower throughout the election season. Abbott had $9.3 million in cash on hand while his Democratic opponent, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, had $354,000. After his win, Abbott said he would fight the Environmental Protection Agency on its takeover of state pollution permits.

“We will fight the EPA with the twin principles of jurisprudence ­— that they should get out and stay out,” Abbot said.

Radnofsky said she hopes her campaign has shown Abbott reasons to legally combat Wall Street corruption.

“Wall Street fraud has cost Texas taxpayers billions and billions of dollars,” Radnofsky said.

Democrat Hank Gilbert lost to Republican Todd Staples for the second consecutive election cycle for agriculture commissioner, a position that regulates pesticide use, exports of livestock and checks the accuracy of gas station and grocery store weights and measures. Incumbent Republican Jerry Patterson defeated his challenger, Democratic candidate Hector Uribe, for land commissioner.

Harold Cook, a Democratic strategist, said Texas Democrats could not have done anything to prevent a nationwide tidal wave of Republican victories.

“Republicans did everything they could to make state elections national, and they succeeded in state after state, including Texas,” Cook said. “Perry is positioning to run for president, and both Abbott and Dewhurst want to run for the U.S. Senate, which makes me wonder who’s minding the store as Texas deals with a $25 billion deficit.”