About 4.9 million people voted in Texas’ 30 largest counties during early voting, a figure that exceeds the total number of votes cast through the state’s last midterm election, the Associated Press reported Saturday. That compares to about 4.7 million total votes cast in Texas in the 2014 midterm election.
Secretary of state figures showed that 540,000 of that total voted early on Friday, the last day for early voting in Texas. The state has 254 counties, but nearly 80 percent of its residents are in the 30 largest counties.
Texas is also home to a closely-watched Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke
What have the candidates said?
Both candidates have said they would benefit from strong voter turnout. Cruz is seeking a second term against O’Rourke, who shattered Senate campaign fundraising records even though he declined donations from outside political groups, the report states. From a three-month period spanning July through September, he raised more than $38 million.
Cruz has remained confident and has said “Texas won’t be bought.” He has also blamed a “hard left” he says is “filled with rage” against President Donald Trump, according to the report. Cruz has also pointed out that there are many more Republicans than Democrats in Texas. He believes that if conservatives turn out in strength at the polls, he will easily win.
Cruz has also said he's in favor of ending “birthright citizenship,” which he believes is essentially breaking the law.
Will Cruz's challenger have a chance?
If elected, O’Rourke would become Texas’ first Democrat to win a statewide office since 1994.
O’Rourke is a three-term congressman and former punk rocker who was barely on the radar until he launched a challenge against Cruz. O’Rourke has campaigned on bipartisanship and his willingness to visit every county. That includes deeply Republican areas that “Democrats gave up on decades ago,” the Associated Press noted.
Some analysts believe that O’Rourke could parlay an upset, or even just a close race, into a 2020 presidential run.
It also sparked speculation that O’Rourke could use an upset of Cruz, or even a close loss, to run for president in 2020.