State Rep. Phil Stephenson, Republican, defeated challenger Joey Cardenas III, Democrat, in the battle for District 85 Tuesday by a landslide of votes in Wharton County, but the race was tighter in other areas of the district.

Stephenson was re-elected with a total of 42,980 votes against Cardenas’ 31,322. Of the 16,786 votes cast in Wharton County, Stephenson won 11,828 votes and Cardenas garnered 4,422.

Being re-elected this year felt great, Stephenson told the Leader-News Friday.

“We beat the Democrats and kept the Texas House red,” he said.

Stephenson’s newly won term will be his fifth for District 85, which covers Wharton and Jackson counties, as well as southwest Fort Bend County.

Cardenas received less than half of the votes that Stephenson did in both Wharton and Jackson counties, but in Fort Bend County, the race was tighter.

“It’s been a really good night at the polls, and early turnout was really great,” Coordinator for Cardenas’ Campaign Evelyn Carriere told the Leader-News Tuesday night. “That’s a big deal.”

This year, Fort Bend County voters elected Democrats to all county positions, including sheriff, county judge and county attorney. Cardenas’ campaign hoped Fort Bend’s blue leaning could earn him a victory in District 85.

Edging out Cardenas by 106 votes, Stephenson ultimately won in Fort Bend County with 26,028 ballots cast in his favor. Stephenson earned 5,124 votes in Jackson County while Cardenas won 978, according to the county website.

Although Stephenson opposed Cardenas politically, he respects him as a person.

“I know him, and he is a good person,” Stephenson said. “He is a teacher, and I respect that very much.”

Serving District 85 since 2013, the last time Stephenson ran for office was in 2018. He opposed Democrat Jennifer Cantu, winning with 31,977 votes against Cantu’s 24,618.

Now that he’s been re-elected, Stephenson’s first goal in office will be to balance the state budget.

“We will have a 5 to 6 percent shortfall, projected to be $5.5 billion,” he said.

The Texas legislature traditionally meets mid-January in odd-numbered years. The next session is planned for January, 2021, but with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, no one knows if the legislature will meet in-person.

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