Until recent years, the Democratic Party had dominated politics in Texas. William P. Clements, Jr., elected governor in 1978, was the first Republican since Reconstruction to hold that office. No Republican carried Texas in a presidential election until 1928, when Herbert Hoover defeated Democrat Al Smith, a Roman Catholic at a severe disadvantage in a Protestant fundamentalist state. Another Roman Catholic, Democratic presidential candidate John Kennedy, carried the state in 1960 largely because he had a Texan, Lyndon Johnson, on his ticket.
Prior to the Civil War, many candidates for statewide office ran as independents. After a period of Republican rule during Reconstruction, Democrats won control of the statehouse and state legislature in 1873. The major challenge to Democratic rule during the late 19th century came not from Republicans but from the People's Party, whose candidates placed 2nd in the gubernatorial races of 1894, 1896, and 1898, aided by the collapse of the cotton market; imposition of a poll tax in 1902 helped disfranchise the poor white farmers and laborers who were the base of Populist support. The Populists and the Farmers' Alliance probably exercised their greatest influence through a Democratic reformer, Governor James S. Hogg (1891–95), who fought the railroad magnates, secured lower freight rates for farmers and shippers, and curbed the power of large landholding companies. Another Democratic governor, James E. "Farmer Jim" Ferguson, was elected on an agrarian reform platform in 1914 and reelected in 1916, but was impeached and convicted the following year for irregular financial dealings. Barred from holding state office, he promoted the candidacy of his wife, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, whose first term as governor (1925–27) marked her as a formidable opponent of the Ku Klux Klan. During her second term (1933–35), the state's first New Deal reforms were enacted, and prohibition was repealed. The Fergusons came to represent the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party in a state where liberals have long been in the minority. After the progressive administration of Governor James V. Allred, during which the state's first old-age assistance program was enacted, conservative Democrats, sometimes called "Texas Tories," controlled the state until the late 1970s.
In the November 1994 elections, George W. Bush (son of former President George H. W. Bush), upset Ann Richards to become governor. Bush was reelected in 1998, shortly before announcing his run for the US presidency. Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison was elected in 1993 to fill the Senate seat vacated by Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, who resigned to become secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration. In 1994, Hutchinson won reelection to a full term, and she was reelected once again in 2000. Republican John Cornyn was elected to the Senate in 2002. Following the 2002 elections, Texas Democrats held 17 seats in the US House of Representatives and the Republicans 15. As of mid-2003, the Republicans continued to control the state house by a margin of 88 to 62, and that had a majority of 19–12 over the Democrats in the state senate.
Republican and native son George H. W. Bush captured 56% of the vote in the 1988 presidential election and 41% in the 1992 election. In 2000, his son, George W. Bush, took 59% of the presidential popular vote to Democrat Al Gore's 38%, and Bush went on to become president. As of 2002 there were 12,563,459 registered voters in the state; there is no voter registration by party in Texas. The state had 32 electoral votes in the 2000 presidential election.
Aside from the Populists, third parties have played a minor role in Texas politics. The Native American (Know-Nothing) Party helped elect Sam Houston governor in 1859. In 1968, George Wallace of the American Independent Party won 19% of the Texas popular vote and in 1992 native son Ross Perot picked up 22% of the vote.
Following passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, registration of black voters increased to about 11.5% of the total population of voters. Between 1895 and 1967, no black person served as a state legislator. By 1993, however, there were 472 blacks holding elective office. At about the same time. Hispanic elected officials numbered 2,215. Democrat Henry Cisneros,
Texas Presidential Vote by Political Parties, 1948–2000
|YEAR||ELECTORAL VOTE||TEXAS WINNER||DEMOCRAT||REPUBLICAN||STATES' RIGHTS DEMOCRAT||PROGRESSIVE||PROHIBITION|
|* Won US presidential election.|
|2000||32||*Bush, G. W. (R)||2,433,746||3,799,639||23,160||137,994||12,394|
former mayor of San Antonio, served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration.