‘Texas is changing’: Ted Cruz clings to US Senate seat after competitive challenge from Beto O’Rourke

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Attendees of the Democratic watch party react as Ted Cruz, with a growing lead in the Texas Senate race, becomes the projected winner at the Driskill Hotel Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Ashley Ephraim | Daily Texan Staff

Incumbent Republican Ted Cruz held onto his seat in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night, holding off an energetic and well-funded challenge from Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

In his victory speech, Cruz described the outcome of the campaign as an indicator of Texas values.

“This election wasn’t about me, and it wasn’t about Beto O’Rourke,” Cruz said. “This election was a battle of ideas. It was a contest for who we are and what we believe. It was a contest, and the people of Texas decided this race.”

The Associated Press called the race for Cruz at 9:35 p.m. Central Time after early voting returns initially indicated a tight race. At press time, The New York Times projected that Cruz would win by 3 percentage points.

During the campaign, Cruz doubled down on his support for former rival and current U.S. President Donald Trump to boost turnout among conservatives. Trump campaigned with Cruz in Houston on the first day of early voting and said the senator was a crucial part of passing his policy agenda.

“Nobody has helped me more with your tax cuts, with your regulations, all of the things we’ve been doing with your military and your vets, than Senator Ted Cruz,” Trump said during the Houston rally.

O’Rourke’s challenge to Cruz made for one of the most competitive Senate races in recent Texas history, with the former shattering fundraising records and frequently generating national headlines.

O’Rourke raised about $70 million without accepting contributions from political action committees, while Cruz raised $33.4 million with the help of PAC money.

In spite of doubling the senator’s fundraising totals, O’Rourke was unable to oust the firebrand incumbent. In his concession speech, O’Rourke maintained the hopeful tone that dominated his campaign rhetoric.

“I am as inspired, I’m as hopeful as I’ve ever been in my life,” O’Rourke said. “And tonight’s loss does nothing to diminish the way that I feel about Texas or this country. Getting to be with and to see all of you tonight reminds me why we set out to do this in the first place.”

Cruz offered words of unity to O’Rourke’s supporters while delivering his victory speech.

“Let me say to all of those who worked on his campaign, all of those who were inspired, that I am your senator as well,” Cruz said.

Taylor Frontera, the president of UT’s College Republicans, said Cruz’s victory is a reminder that he still shares the opinions of a majority of Texans.

“Republicans have shown, specifically within Texas, that they know what Texans want,” said Frontera, an international relations and global studies senior. “Senator Ted Cruz is the one who stands for Texas values and gets the job done and does what his constituents want.”

Before the race had been called by most news outlets, Diego Britton, a government junior who volunteered for O’Rourke’s campaign, said even in the face of a loss, he was hopeful for the future.

“There are no regrets within this campaign because if we don’t win this race it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort,” Britton said. “I’ll be sad, I’ll be disappointed, but I won’t be devastated because I’ll know that all this means is that it just wasn’t our time yet. Texas is changing.”