Texas Senate race draws national attention


Maya Hernandez

Congressman Beto O’Rourke held a rally in Fort Worth

For over two decades, Texas has remained a traditionally Republican state. Most of Texas remains strongly conservative, except for a few border counties and large cities such as Dallas, Austin and Houston. As a result, a Democrat has not held statewide office in Texas in 18 years. This is why the close Senate race between Democrat Beto O’Rourke and current Republican senator Ted Cruz has drawn national attention.

Senior Kyle Lleras feels that interest in the election is a result of the 2016 presidential election.

“[The race] shows the two party system very well in a sense that we’re not living in a state that if you’re a Republican that’s the only thing that matters.”

— SMU Political Science Professor Victoria Farrar-Myers

“With the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, a lot of people are more interested in what is actually going to happen,” Lleras said. “This has been the first time for our generation where someone who isn’t considered the typical politician has won the election.”

Most polls show Cruz and O’Rourke are several points apart. The New York Times Oct. 11 poll places Cruz eight points above O’Rourke, and other polls place Cruz a few points above him. The race is classified as a toss-up by Cook Political Report.

Southern Methodist University political science professor Victoria Farrar-Myers said this is a race that both Democrats and Republicans can be excited about.

“[The race] shows the two party system very well in a sense that we’re not living in a state that if you’re a Republican that’s the only thing that matters,” Farrar-Myers said.


O’Rourke’s campaign strategy

O’Rourke raised more than $38 million, setting a record for Senate funding. He is not taking money from Political Action Committees (PACs) — committees which pool money for certain candidates or initiatives. Instead, O’Rourke said over 800,000 people have donated to his campaign.

While he is one year younger than Cruz, he has made an effort to appeal to younger voters.

He went on a week-long tour to a dozen college campuses to encourage young adults to vote. O’Rourke gained social media attention when he skateboarded in a Whataburger parking lot.

“I definitely believe there’s a likeability factor that comes with the charisma of a younger, energetic, enthusiastic candidate,” SMU political science professor Luisa del Rosa said. “The concern is turning that into a vote.”


Cruz’s re-election strategy

While O’Rourke may be getting media attention, The Marquee’s poll of 280 students found that over 44 percent of students support Cruz, which surpassed O’Rourke’s support by 12 percent.
On Oct. 22, Trump held a rally for Cruz at the Toyota Center in Houston, along with Gov. Greg Abbott, drawing a crowd of almost 20,000 people. People waited in line for over 24 hours to get seats.

Senior Anna Helmers said she is voting for Cruz due to his stance on immigration. Cruz is a strong supporter of legal immigration, being the son of a Cuban immigrant, and he wants to strengthen border security.

“Beto is going off of the support of young people, and Ted Cruz is going off of those who already support him,” Helmers said.


Local elections

While the Senate race has gained national attention, county and local elections remain important according to County Commissioner Andy Eads.

“It’s important for [teens] to be involved in politics because it really is your civic duty as Americans to not only be involved in the process, but actually get out and vote, and be educated on the topics and issues of today,” Eads said.

On Oct. 22, during early voting, Denton County tripled the amount of voters compared to the last midterm election in 2014, and surpassed the 2016 amount of early voters.

On Oct. 8, Republican candidates held a meet and greet at Marty B’s in Bartonville. James Kerbow graduated from Marcus in 2003 and is running for the Justice of Peace in Precinct 3. His mother, Becky Kerbow, previously held the position. Kerbow also emphasized the importance of high school students being politically active and well informed.

If elected, Kerbow said he plans to speak to high school and middle school students about being informed and involved in politics.

“I love to see it, no matter what side of politics you believe,” Kerbow said. “If you’re out here and you’re doing something that you care about in support of your community, I’m all for it.”


Maya Hernandez
State Senator Jane Nelson spoke at the GOP meet and greet at Marty B’s in Bartonville.

Texas education issues still concerns many voters

In local and statewide elections, education remains a key topic. Currently, Texas ranks 35th in the nation for per-student funding. The Texas Education Agency projected that state funding for education will continue to drop by $3.5 million in the next few years, due to local property taxes rising.

“People might be surprised to know that most of the issues we work on in the Texas Senate are nonpartisan because we have more in common than we have differences,” Sen. Jane Nelson said.  “One thing we all have in common is that we want a good education for everyone.  Educating our students is the most important thing we do as a state, and I will prioritize education in the budget bill I author next session.”

County Commissioner Andy Eads acknowledged problems with the “Robin Hood” school funding plan. It’s called Robin Hood because the state takes local tax money from wealthy school districts and redistributes it to poorer school districts.

“I can tell you that Robin Hood has been a failed system for a long time and people are working diligently,” Eads said. “One thing that is true, the local property tax payer is paying a large burden on education funding. Many people want that moved to the state level.”