Texas didn’t go as planned for Democrats, but the suburbs still moved sharply away from Republicans

 Texas didn’t go as planned for Democrats, but the suburbs still moved sharply away from Republicans

Two districts did in fact flip on the presidential level: Trump lost the 24th District in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs while recapturing the 23rd District along the border with Mexico. Biden, however, made major gains in a number of other suburban districts and nearly won no fewer than seven of them. Trump, meanwhile, surged in many heavily Latino areas and likewise came close to capturing three, but except for the 24th, every Trump seat is in GOP hands and every Biden seat is represented by Democrats.

The 24th, which includes the suburbs north of Dallas and Fort Worth, is a good place to start because it saw one of the largest shifts between 2016 and 2020. The district began the decade as heavily Republican turf—it backed Mitt Romney 60-38—but Trump carried it by a substantially smaller 51-44 margin four years later. Biden continued the trend and racked up a 52-46 win this time, but the area remained just red enough downballot to allow Republican Beth Van Duyne to manage a 49-47 victory in an expensive open-seat race against Democrat Candace Valenzuela.

Biden fell just short of winning seven other historically red suburban seats: the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 21st, 22nd, and 31st, where Trump’s margins ranged from just one to three points and where the swings from 2016 ranged from seven points in the 22nd all the way to 13 points in the 3rd, the biggest shift in the state. However, as in the 24th, Biden’s surge did not come with sufficient coattails, as Republicans ran well ahead of Trump in all of these seats. (You can check out our guide for more information about each district.)

Two seats that Democrats flipped in 2018 and stayed blue last year also saw large improvements for Biden. The 7th District in west Houston, parts of which were once represented by none other than George H.W. Bush from 1967 to 1971, had swung from 60-39 Romney to 48-47 Clinton, and Biden carried it 54-45 in 2020. Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher won by a smaller 51-47 spread against Wesley Hunt, who was one of the House GOP’s best fundraisers. The 32nd District in the Dallas area, likewise, had gone from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. This time, Biden took it 54-44 as Democratic Rep. Colin Allred prevailed 52-46.

Biden’s major gains in the suburbs, though, came at the same time that Trump made serious inroads in predominantly Latino areas on or near the southern border with Mexico. That rightward shift may have cost Team Blue the chance to flip the open 23rd District, which stretches from San Antonio west to the outskirts of the El Paso area.

Romney carried this seat 51-48 before Clinton took it 50-46, but Trump won it 50-48 this time. That makes the 23rd the first Romney/Clinton/Trump seat we’ve found anywhere in the country, and it may in fact be the only one. Amid Trump’s rise here, Republican Tony Gonzales beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones 51-47 to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who had held off Ortiz Jones only 49.2-48.7 in 2018.

Trump also fell just short in three other seats along the Rio Grande Valley. The 15th District, which includes McAllen, had supported Clinton by a 57-40 margin, but Biden prevailed only 50-49 here. Democratic Rep. Vicente González, who had won his first two general elections with ease, likewise came shockingly close to losing his bid for a third term, fending off Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, who didn’t raise much money, just 51-48 in a contest that attracted minimal outside spending from either party.

The 34th Congressional District around Brownsville similarly moved from 59-38 Clinton to 52-48 Biden, though Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela ran well ahead of the top of the ticket and prevailed 55-42. Finally, the Laredo-based 28th District went from 58-38 Clinton to 52-47 Biden. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who has long been one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, won 58-39 several months after he came close to losing renomination against a progressive opponent.

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