Cruz fends off O'Rourke in Texas Senate race

Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the George H.W. Bush Commemorative Center in Midland, Texas for a campaign stop Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Cruz is on his bus tour campaigning before the mid-term elections. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

The Latest on Election Day in Texas (all times Central):

9:25 p.m.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz fended off rising-star Democrat Beto O'Rourke to win re-election in a much-watched Texas Senate race that began as a cakewalk but needed a visit from President Donald Trump to help push the incumbent over the top.

Cruz finished a surprising second in the 2016 Republican presidential primary and began the Senate race as a prohibitive favorite.

But O'Rourke visited fiercely conservative parts of the state that his party had long since given up on, while shattering fundraising records despite shunning donations from outside political groups and pollster advice.

Cruz argued that his opponent's support for gun control and universal health care were too liberal for Texas.

Trump and Cruz were bitter 2016 rivals, but the president visited Houston late last month to solidify the senator's win.


9:10 p.m.

Thousands of people are milling around the infield at the El Paso baseball stadium where Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke is holding his election-night party.

As they awaited results in the closely fought race, people in the crowd were entertained by a cumbia band. They cheered when the singer said, "El Paso never gives up."

O'Rourke is a congressman from El Paso who has mounted a competitive challenge against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

His campaign drew national attention and a wide range of endorsements, including one in the last few hours of the race from Beyonce, the singer and Houston native.

Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly a quarter-century.


8:50 p.m.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says it's time for Texans to "work side by side" following a divisive midterm campaign season.

Abbott struck a tone of unity after easily winning re-election over Democrat Lupe Valdez.

The 60-year-old Abbott says that Texans must remember that "what unities us as Texans is far greater than our differences." He released the statement as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and other GOP incumbents in Texas were still locked in much closer races.

Republicans have kept a grip on the Texas governor's mansion since 1994.

Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, never put together a serious statewide challenge.


8:25 p.m.

Texas is sending its first Hispanic women to Congress, with Democrats in Houston and El Paso both earning that trailblazing distinction during the same electoral cycle.

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia won a heavily Hispanic district in Houston, replacing retiring Democratic Rep. Gene Green, who remained popular representing the area for decades despite being a self-described white man who spoke marginal Spanish.

A former county judge in El Paso, Veronica Escobar won a seat to replace El Paso Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who is leaving the House as he challenges Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Texas has the nation's second-largest Hispanic population behind California but had never elected a Latina to either congressional chamber. Cruz became the state's first Hispanic male senator in 2012.


8 p.m.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has won a second term after an uneventful race against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez.

Abbott's re-election was seldom in doubt. Republicans have won every governor's race in Texas since 1994, starting with George W. Bush and continuing with Rick Perry and now Abbott.

Valdez is a former sheriff in Dallas who would have been Texas' first openly gay, Hispanic governor. But she struggled to raise money and support, and her race was overshadowed in Texas by Democrat Beto O'Rourke's high-profile run for Senate.

The 60-year-old Abbott is the nation's only governor who uses a wheelchair. He was paralyzed from the waist down after a tree fell on him as a young law student.


7 p.m.

As polls closed across most of Texas, supporters of both candidates in the closely watched U.S. Senate race gathered at opposite ends of the state.

Thousands of Democrat Beto O'Rourke supporters are at a minor league baseball stadium in the Texas Democratic Senate candidate's native El Paso to await elections results that could come late into the night.

At U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's party in Houston, a line of people waited to enter the hotel ballroom, chanting "Ted! Ted!" Some in the crowd wore red "Make America Great Again" baseball caps.

Polls in El Paso and far west Texas are still open for another hour. Nine polling places in the Houston area will also stay open under a judge's order after reports that they opened late this morning.


5:10 p.m.

Beyonce has endorsed Texas Democratic Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke's bid to unseat Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in the final hours before her home state's polls close.

The native Houstonian released a series of Instagram posts with a black and white "Beto" cap partially covering her face on Tuesday afternoon.

O'Rourke himself then retweeted one of the pictures under the caption "Thank you, Beyonce."

An El Paso congressman, O'Rourke is trying to become the first Democrat to win statewide office in Texas since 1994 and has drawn the adoration of many celebrities, including Texas country music icon Willie Nelson.

Cruz dismisses his opponent's upset-minded campaign as too liberal for Texas since O'Rourke supports universal health care and impeaching President Donald Trump.


4:50 p.m.

Nine Houston-area polling places will stay open until 8 p.m. after a judge ruled in favor of advocacy groups that complained the locations didn't open on time and forced many voters to leave without casting a ballot.

State District Judge Fredericka Phillips granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday that directs Harris County to keep the nine locations open until 8 p.m., an hour later than the rest of the county.

The Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Organizing Project filed several statements from voters who reported long morning lines and malfunctioning machines.

One person said she was first in line before the 7 a.m. opening but left at 7:45 without voting because poll workers' sign-in machines weren't working.

An attorney for Harris County says the county will comply with Phillips' order.

The nine locations are listed here . There are roughly 1,000 polling places in Harris County.


3:30 p.m.

A Harris County deputy has cited a poll worker for misdemeanor assault after she allegedly bumped a voter during an argument and made a racist comment.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter the deputy responded Tuesday morning to a disturbance call at a polling site in Houston.

The Houston Chronicle reports the dispute began over a discrepancy with the voter's address. The confrontation escalated and the worker, who is white, made a racist comment to the voter, who's a black woman. Witnesses confirmed to the newspaper that the worker said, "Maybe if I'd worn my blackface makeup today you could comprehend what I'm saying to you."

The election judge at the site separated the two.

Harris County authorities are investigating the matter.


12:45 p.m.

Apparent technical problems have cause Election Day delays for some voters looking to cast ballots in Harris County.

Houston resident Xenia Kulick says voting was delayed by about 20 minutes after her polling site opened Tuesday, and then problems with registration check-in machines resulted in a long line forming.

The Houston Chronicle reports an election judge at the polling location said iPads, which are used to certify voter registration, were not working for less than 10 minutes.

A Harris County elections official says technical glitches occur periodically and county workers try to move quickly to resolve them to prevent disruptions for voters.


11:55 a.m.

Texas' U.S. Senate race is at the top of voters' minds as they head to the polls.

Republican Amanda Martin, a 40-year-old high school teacher, cast her vote Tuesday in Dallas for Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who is challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

She likes that O'Rourke is "more in the middle," adding that her displeasure with President Donald Trump also factored into her decision since Cruz has supported Trump.

But Republican Elizabeth Sharp, a 33-year-old who works in marketing, said that while she thinks Trump is "a little too divisive" and Cruz "probably has a ways to go" as far as inclusiveness, she cast her vote for Cruz.

Octavio Rodriguez, a 45-year-old who works in consulting, said he was excited to vote for O'Rourke, saying, "He represents at least something that counteracts that divisiveness that's going on right now."


11:45 a.m.

A "crowd control exercise" the U.S. Border Patrol planned in Texas on Election Day has been cancelled after being criticized by civil liberty groups.

Border Patrol agent Fidel Baca confirmed Tuesday that the exercise in a Latino neighborhood of El Paso was cancelled, but declined to say why.

The Texas Civil Rights Project says the exercise, billed by Border Patrol as a "mobile field force demonstration," was to be held within a half-mile of a polling site.

The group is seeking an explanation from federal authorities about the intention of the exercise.

The group says in a statement that President Donald Trump "has drummed up anti-immigrant sentiment" and the exercise is "part and parcel of those efforts."

Border Patrol has previously held similar operations: one in South Texas on Monday and another in El Paso last week.


11 a.m.

A Central Texas elections supervisor has resigned after she berated a woman who was apparently confused about where to vote.

Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis told KVUE-TV in Austin that the supervisor resigned in the aftermath of the confrontation Friday and is not working on Election Day. Friday was the last day of early voting.

KVUE broadcast video taken by another voter that showed the supervisor becoming angry with the woman then rising from her chair and yelling, "Get out. Get out. Get out."

Davis says the woman was registered to vote in Williamson County but lives in adjacent Travis County.

He says the woman arrived at the Williamson polling site after being turned away by Travis poll workers.

Davis says workers should have directed the woman to the Travis County elections division so she could have cast a limited ballot.


9 a.m.

Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke says he expects to win his high-profile Texas Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz -- defying the odds in the country's largest red state.

O'Rourke walked from his home in El Paso on Tuesday and voted at a community college, accompanied by his wife and three children. He said he didn't have any polls on which to base his optimism but said his campaign is "bringing people together, I feel it. And so, yeah, I feel good."

Cruz, who cast an early vote in his native Houston last month, says he's confident he'll prevail and was boosted by President Donald Trump's recent visit to Houston.

O'Rourke says an upset win would prove that "Texas is not going to be governed by our fears."


8:15 a.m.

Polls have opened across Texas for Election Day and a strong turnout is anticipated following an early-voting period in which nearly 4.9 million people cast ballots in Texas' 30 largest counties alone.

Polls throughout the state opened Tuesday after a campaign season that featured the much-watched Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke.

Like other states in what has been a deeply divisive election year, Texas shattered early voting records in big cities for a midterm election.

Fewer than 5 million voters in Texas cast ballots in the 2014 and 2010 midterms, but this cycle could be closer to a high-turnout presidential year.

The Senate race has overshadowed other contests, such as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's push for a second term against Democrat Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff.


10 p.m.

The U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke has grabbed most of the attention, but Texas has a full slate of candidates on the midterm ballot.

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to cruise to re-election, as are fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Comptroller Glenn Hegar and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is under federal indictment, but still favored.

All 36 congressional seats are up, and the Democrats are hoping to reduce the Republican' 25-11 advantage, especially with races that could be close in Dallas, Houston and a sprawling West Texas district.

All 150 state House seats are up too, as are 15 of 31 Senate seats -- though Republican majorities in each look safe.

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