When all the votes were counted following the 2014 General Election, Republicans picked up three seats in the Texas House and one in the Senate to cap off a Republican sweep of statewide offices. A Democrat has not been elected to a statewide office since 1994, but the stronger-than-usual Democratic slate of candidates in 2014 had some party hopefuls predicting the beginning of a “purple” Texas — a more even mix of Republicans and Democrats. However, Texans consistently voted for Republican candidates by approximately 60-to-40 percent margins.

Governor/Lieutenant Governor

At the top of the ticket, Attorney General Greg Abbott led Sen. Wendy Davis 59 to 39 percent, and Sen. Dan Patrick defeated Sen. Leticia Van de Putte 58 to 39 percent. (Davis will leave the Senate, as her term expired in 2014; Van de Putte will remain a state senator. A special election to fill Patrick’s Senate seat will be held at an as-yet-undetermined date.)

Texas Legislature

There were few surprises at the legislative level, except that two incumbent Democrats lost their seats. Both were freshmen in urban districts: Mary Ann Perez in Houston lost to Gilbert Pena, and Philip Cortez in San Antonio was defeated by Rick Galindo. A third House seat that had been held by a Democrat moved into the R column, as Wayne Faircloth overcame Susan Criss for the seat vacated by retiring Democrat Craig Eiland.

The minor partisan change in the House should not be particularly significant for public education, but we will see a very different Senate, stemming in part from the results of the spring 2014 primary elections. Without exception, Republicans who chose not to run for re-election or who were defeated in the primary were replaced by candidates considered to be far more fiscally and socially conservative.

Changes ahead?

The move from a Senate with a 19-to-12 Republican/Democrat split to a 20-to-11 divide could spell major changes in operations, with Democrats having a much harder time using the two-thirds rule to block legislation — if the rule is maintained in the 2015 session. Incoming lieutenant governor Dan Patrick has vigorously opposed the rule in the past, and a change to a 60-percent rule is considered possible, or even likely.

Among the legislation that Democrats in the Senate influenced through blocking — or threatening to block — via the two-thirds rule in 2013 were voucher proposals, the TEA Sunset bill that would have eliminated the State Board for Educator Certification, and early versions of the TRS bill that would have been much more harmful to current school employees. Most observers expect some form of private school vouchers to pass the Senate easily in 2015.

What TCTA members can do

TCTA's lobby team will spend the weeks before the 2015 legislative session begins on Jan. 13 meeting with incoming lawmakers to discuss the issues facing public school teachers. We strongly encourage TCTA leaders to schedule meetings in November or December 2014 to establish and strengthen relationships with local elected representatives, new and veteran. It’s time to begin laying the groundwork for a session that is expected to be challenging, but which — with a great deal of input from teachers — could result in some positive changes for public education.