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Beto O’Rourke loses Senate race, but reshapes Texas forever

"We are not technically blue yet, but we are getting there. He started it.”

EL PASO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) is escorted by law enforcement after casting his ballot at El Paso Community College-Rio Grande Campus on Election Day November 06, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. In Texas, O'Rourke is in a surprisingly tight contest against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the state's U.S. Senate race. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
EL PASO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) is escorted by law enforcement after casting his ballot at El Paso Community College-Rio Grande Campus on Election Day November 06, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. In Texas, O'Rourke is in a surprisingly tight contest against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the state's U.S. Senate race. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

EL PASO, TEXAS — Democrat Beto O’Rourke came close in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz but lost Tuesday by a narrow 3-point margin. Even so, O’Rourke’s race proved candidates in the Lone Star State can run on a serious progressive platform and draw a substantial following.

Beto fans were devastated by the loss, but took heart in what he and his supporters were able to do. Texas — one of the nation’s worst voter turnout states — was galvanized; nearly 4.9 million votes were cast in the 30 most populous counties during the 12 days of early voting, topping the total statewide turnout in 2014 by 157,000 votes.

“I feel disappointed but I’m super proud of Beto,” said Janice Jimenez of El Paso, Texas. “He’s open eyes to so many people. We are not technically blue yet, but we are getting there. He started it.”

For more than a year, O’Rourke campaigned to represent Texas, a state where Democrats haven’t held statewide office since 1994. He ran on universal health care, gun safety, abortion rights, and ending private immigration prisons and detention centers, to name a few of his core policies.

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His strategy depended on increased turnout. For this, he visited all 254 Texas counties and spent the last two weeks making 60 different stops in a get-out-the-vote blitz. He built a large field apparatus, with over 800 paid staffers and 25,000 volunteers, and took no corporate donations.

O’Rourke’s rock star status was cemented by his supporters on the ground. They were young people; they were women; they were Latinx voters in El Paso who elected him to city council more than a decade ago and then again to the House of Representatives in 2012; they were Black activists in Houston.

There was a Blue Wave in Texas, despite voting issues. Indeed, the Texas Civil Rights Project had to sue Harris County (and won) to keep nine polling places open an extra hour for technological issues in the morning.

“I wanna cry, it’s so disappointing,” El Paso native Marysole Soto told ThinkProgress, fighting off tears.