In a state where the Democrats poured a fortune into a governor’s race they had no chance whatsoever of winning, the House District 43 race was arguably the most critical contest on the fall ballot in terms of a barometer for the minority party’s visions of an eventual comeback here. HD 43 is a microcosm of the Texas of the future where Democrats fancy themselves on top of the mountain again – and that’s why a win there could have taken a lot of the sting out of another totally predictable GOP statewide sweep.
State Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville had already given Democratic loyalists all the reason they’d ever need to want to beat him when he’d bolted to the GOP the moment the South Texas seat that he’d held for a year as a Democrat was converted into a swing district in the 2011 redistricting process. While party switches are always viewed as blatantly opportunistic, the Lozano defection appeared to be a dangerous gamble in a district that was still more than 60 percent Hispanic despite the partisan parity on paper. So the Democratic powers that be – fueled with a renewed sense of optimism and vigor that the Battleground Texas operation had inspired with its conception last year – went after Lozano with a vengeance in a race that his enemies were predicting that they’d win until the bitter end.
But the Democrats discovered this week on election night that they’d underestimated Lozano more than Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and all of the other Republicans on the Texas ballot combined. The significance of Lozano’s victory over Democratic challenger Kim Gonzalez cannot be overstated, however, in a district where the second-term incumbent ran up the score with more than 61 percent of the vote in the general election. But the HD 43 race wasn’t like all of the other ostensibly competitive House races that candidates were going to win simply because they had an R by their names regardless of how good or bad their campaigns had been.