Had voters re-elected Rep. Nick Lampson to Congress, he would have taken the helm of a House subcommittee that oversees NASA projects and guides its budget.
But voters in the district that is home to Johnson Space Center took a pass.
Instead, they elected Republican Pete Olson, who has built Washington contacts from years working as a Senate aide and in the Pentagon, but who will be a freshman in the minority party.
And Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has said she is considering leaving next year, before her term ends in 2012, to run for governor, taking 14 years of seniority with her. The White House also will be emptied of its Texas connection when President Bush leaves.
With 20 Republican congressmen — and a dozen Democrats — Texas has the largest Republican delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. But in a year when Democrats expanded their majorities in Congress and taken the White House, that might not be anything to brag about.
"It really points to how important it is for Texas to be a healthy two-party state with both parties represented fairly in the congressional delegation, state House and state Senate," said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic group.
A temporary gain
Texas lost more than 80 years of congressional experience in 2004 when four senior Democrats, including Lampson, lost re-election after their districts were redrawn to elect more Republicans to the House from Texas.
But that plan worked only until 2006, when Democrats took back the majority.
Lampson won the seat held by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2006 after DeLay resigned from Congress and dropped off the ballot too late to be replaced. Republicans fielded a write-in that year but set their sights on seizing the seat back for the GOP this election.
Olson won Tuesday with 53 percent of the vote to Lampson's 46 percent. Lampson was scheduled to be chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee's Space and Aeronautics subcommittee.
Two other Republicans, Reps. John Culberson in a Houston district and Mike McCaul in a district that covers the area between Houston and Austin, beat back aggressive challenges from Democrats in their Republican-friendly districts.
"This again, the setback for Texas, can be laid at the feet of Tom DeLay. We continue to pay the price for that foolishness of three or four years ago," said Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "Having said that, we are not without influence. We are not without future opportunities."
Worries of diminished clout may be overstated because Texas is not so easily ignored, said Reggie Bashur, a Republican political consultant in Austin.
"Texas is the second largest state in the nation with more than 23 million people. It's a major part of the national economy so Texas is a force nationally and is going to be a force in U.S. Congress," Bashur said. He acknowledge Texas would be better off if Congress was run by Republicans, but said the state has prominent representation on both sides of the aisle. "I think Texas' voice is going to be heard."
How red is Texas?
Reyes said Texas Democrats, even with the majority, will have challenges in Congress because the state backed Republican nominee John McCain. Texas Democrats wanted the national party to help Democratic state Rep. Rick Noriega in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Sen. John Cornyn, but got none. They also hoped Obama would visit the state, but he didn't.
"We're happy to go at this for the time being pretty much on our own because we think we are sending some strong signals that Texas is not that dark of a shade of red. We are optimistic we will have some change," said Reyes, who stumped for Obama in several Southwestern states and Florida.
Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco was the only Democrat to survive the 2004 redistricting. His perseverance has been rewarded.
When Democrats took charge two years ago, he became chairman of the subcommittee in charge of doling out money for veterans affairs and military construction, both important for Texas.
Edwards, who was re-elected to his 10th House term Tuesday, also made the short list of possible running mates for Obama.
"I think since Tom DeLay left, the delegation has been working better together. We meet once a month on a bipartisan basis and have genuine personal friendships across the aisle in Texas," Edwards said. "We've joined together to support NASA projects and defense programs and I think, I hope we'll continue to see relationships improve there."
Hans Klingler, spokesman for the Texas Republican Party, said Washington leaders won't be able to ignore Texas or diminish its importance because it is such a large state with a large congressional delegation and is so integral to the nation's economy.
Klingler said a number of Republicans in Congress, such as Sen. John Cornyn and Reps. Lamar Smith, McCaul, John Carter and Jeb Hensarling, play key roles on key committees even though they are in the minority party.
"The clout is not diminished, it's just different," Klingler said.