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story.lead_photo.caption This combination of Sept. 21, 2018, file photos shows Texas U.S. Senate candidates in the November 2018 election from left, incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, left, and Democratic U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool, File)

AUSTIN, Texas -- While all eyes in Texas are on the unexpectedly close U.S. Senate race, further down the ballot Tuesday were races that could help determine control of Congress and end a Democratic drought for statewide offices.

Here's what you need to know:

CONGRESSIONAL BATTLEGROUNDS

Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to retake the House, and Texas could help them get there.

Most vulnerable are three Republican incumbents whose districts went for Hillary Clinton in 2016: Pete Sessions in Dallas, John Culberson in Houston and Will Hurd in San Antonio.

It could also be a big night for women in Texas, where men hold all but three of the state's 36 seats in Congress. Among the candidates worth watching were Democrat MJ Hegar, a veteran whose viral campaign ads have forced 16-year GOP incumbent John Carter to defend his typically safe district near Austin.

ABBOTT GETS A SECOND TERM

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott won another four years following one of the most uneventful Texas gubernatorial races in decades. Democrat Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, barely raised money and her campaign was nonexistent to many voters.

But Abbott's real test comes after Election Day, when his power will be tested in a divided Republican-controlled Legislature that shrugged off many of his demands before going home.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Texas' booming Hispanic population is on pace to outnumber white residents as soon as 2022.

Texas also elected a Latina to Congress for the first time. Two of them, in fact: Democrats Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Sylvia Garcia of Houston.

History would also be made if Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones defeats Hurd, a two-time incumbent, in the state's only swing district that runs along the U.S.-Mexico border. Jones would be Texas' first Filipina-American and openly gay member of Congress.

TEXAS' INDICTED AG SEEKING RE-ELECTION

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has spent nearly his entire term in office under indictment for securities fraud and could be re-elected before his case is resolved.

Democrat Justin Nelson has staked his campaign on reminding voters that Paxton still faces trial over allegations that he duped investors in a startup before becoming Texas' top law enforcement officer.

But Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, has regained his footing within the GOP as his criminal case has languished in court. Paxton's wife, Angela Paxton, is also on the cusp of joining the state Senate in her first run for office.

TURNOUT COULD SET NEW RECORD

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.

Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke needs to bring out historically unlikely voters to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whose campaign has made little overtures outside his conservative base.


For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

NW News on 11/07/2018

Print Headline: Cruz-O'Rourke hogs the attention, but Texas ballot is loaded

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