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As Democrats close the gap in the Texas House, what happens next?

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — January is coming. As lawmakers prepare to return to the Texas Capitol, the balance of power has shifted thanks to newly-minted representatives.

Texas Democrats gained ground in the state House, picking up a dozen seats, though Republicans remain an arm's length majority. Last session, Republicans held a 95-55 majority in the lower chamber. Those numbers change to 83-67 when the new Speaker gavels in on Jan. 8. Who that Speaker is could also be influenced by the change in the makeup of the House. The Speaker chooses committee assignments, and, therefore, decides which issues will come to the floor, by working with the representatives selected as committee chairs. Seven candidates have emerged for Speaker: six Republicans and one Democrat. Angleton Republican Dennis Bonnen emerged as a front-runner when he announced his candidacy last week, joining Amarillo's Four Price, San Angelo's Drew Darby, Tan Parker of Flower Mound and Phil King of Weatherford. Lone Democrat Eric Johnson, of Dallas, announced his Speaker run in May.

"We've got a Republican Governor, we've got a Republican Senate, we've got a Republican House. I think Texas voters want balance," said Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman Cesar Blanco, a state representative from El Paso.

"We are looking for individuals who are going to be focusing on things that are  important to Texas, not allowing the extreme agendas to creep into our chamber," Blanco added.

What does that balance look like? According to Gov. Greg Abbott, is starts with unity, as he told supporters at an election night rally Tuesday night in Austin after he won re-election.

It's time for us to work toward that shared vision of a brighter future for Texas and put behind us the differences of the campaigns," Abbott said. "As Texans, the bonds that we share transcend our differences."

On the Senate side, not much changes. Republicans gained two seats this year but lost two on Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's three-fifths rule means the 19 Republican senators can introduce legislation without needing support from any Democrats. State Sen. Sylvia Garcia's seat hangs in the balance with her election to U.S. Congress on Tuesday, but even a Democrat filling that vacancy does not break the supermajority.


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