AUSTIN - America voted and Barack Obama, the junior Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois, was elected the 44th president of the United States on Nov. 4.

The Texas vote went against the grain, producing a 12-point margin (55.5 to 43.8 percent) in favor of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The ballot’s eight other candidates for president received a combined total of less than 1 percent of the vote.

Voting maps show President-elect Obama did something U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president in 2004, could not do in his race against President George W. Bush. Obama won three of the state’s four highest-population counties: Harris, Dallas and Bexar.

Travis, the state’s fifth most populous county, produced a 30 percent margin in favor of Obama. Texas is a winner-takes-all state in the electoral college, so McCain claimed the Lone Star State’s 34 votes: one for each of Texas’ 32

congressional seats and two for its Senate seats.

John Cornyn, Texas’ junior U.S. senator, held off challenger Rick Noriega, a Democratic state representative from Houston, to win his second six-year term. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas’ senior U.S. senator, was not up for re-election this cycle. She has not ruled out a run for governor in 2010.

Five incumbent state representatives were voted out of office: Juan Garcia, D-Corpus Christi, lost to Republican Todd Hunter; Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, lost to Democrat Chris Turner; Dan Barrett, D-Fort Worth, lost to Republican Mark Shelton; Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, lost to Democrat Carol Kent; and Jim Murphy, R-Houston, lost to Democrat Kristi Thibaut.

Speaker faces list of

challengers

State Rep. and current House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, was re-elected to a 20th consecutive term for his district. In 2003, when Craddick was elected to succeed Hale Center Democrat Pete Laney as speaker, the GOP enjoyed a 26-seat advantage, holding 88 seats to the Democrats’ 62. The Nov. 4 election left Republicans with a two-seat advantage in the Texas House, with 76 seats to the Democrats’ 74.

Craddick’s hold on the House gavel is likely to be tested when the 81st regular session of the Texas Legislature convenes in January. Nine House members have filed as candidates to be speaker. Craddick’s challengers, so far, include three Republicans: Jim Keffer of Eastland, Tommy Merritt of Longview and Delwin Jones of Lubbock; and six Democrats: Pete Gallego of Alpine, Senfronia Thompson, Scott

Hochberg and Sylvester Turner, all of Houston, Craig Eiland of Galveston and Allan Ritter of Nederland.

2 new faces due in Texas Senate

Democrats picked up one seat in the upper chamber: Texas Senate Dist. 10 incumbent Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, lost to Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. The race for Senate Dist. 17 - which includes parts of Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers and Jefferson counties - is not settled. The winner will be decided in a December runoff between Republican Joan Huffman and Democrat Chris Bell.

Republicans retake District 22

U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, Cong. Dist. 22, lost to Republican Pete Olson. This is the Houston-area seat vacated when former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay resigned in June 2006. The district includes parts of Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria and Galveston counties.

Combs reshapes tax

division

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs renamed her Property Tax Division the Property Tax Assistance Division on Nov. 3.

She also moved it out of her office’s Local Government Assistance and Economic Analysis Division and made it a stand-alone division. Combs said the changes reflect a new emphasis on helping local school districts and county appraisal districts comply with property tax laws and use property appraisal methods “that produce accurate results.”

Combs also said she plans revisions to the annual Property Value Study, a measure of taxable value of property within school districts that is used to calculate the amount of funding they receive from the state.

School districts and county appraisal districts that disagree with the results of the study have a right to appeal, Combs said, and added that appeals now will be heard by the State Office of Administrative Hearings instead of by the comptroller’s office.