By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Now that the voters from across the county have come out in favor of a road bond that split the county 18 months earlier, does it still make sense to talk about two Hays Counties?
You’d better believe it.
Though the returns from last Tuesday night’s election demonstrate without doubt that Hays County is as purple as ever, those same returns show that the purple is composed of a very deep blue on the urbanizing east and a very deep red on the more affluent Hill Country west.
The dividing line, very roughly, is the Union Pacific Railroad track, which visionaries see as a future commuter rail tying together Austin and San Antonio. If that track is to some day to bind the corridor north to south, it also marks the difference between two Hays Counties, not merely on matters of local development, but across the range of political beliefs and desires as they are described by party affiliation.
Out of 59,961 voters who turned out in Hays County, nearly half – 29,035, or 48.42 percent – punched the button for straight party voting. And those straight party votes split very nearly down the middle between the two major parties, with 14,286 going Republican and 14,334 going Democrat.
But that evenness dissolves on examination of county commissioner precincts, and it dissolves even more at the finer level of voting precincts within commissioners precincts.
In short, the two Hays Counties emerge in more detail, with a neutral buffer zone between them.
The Democratic east side includes the entire San Marcos-based Commissioners Precinct 1 except voting precinct 116 on the far southwest. That Democratic area includes downtown San Marcos and everything to its east, as well as the areas east and south of Kyle. Also on the Democratic side are voting precincts 330 (San Marcos heritage district, western Texas State), 332 (east of Texas State), 334 (Texas State) and 446 (north San Marcos between I-35, the Blanco River and the railroad tracks), 223 (old town Kyle), 227 (northeast of downtown Kyle on Interstate-35), 228 (east of Buda), 229 (Uhland), and 234 (Niederwald). .
Within those precincts mostly bunched along I-35 and to its east, 61.7 percent who voted straight party went Democrat (7,492 out of 12,149).
The Republican side takes in all of Dripping Springs-based Commissioners Precinct 4 except voting precinct 446 in San Marcos. Also on that Republican side are voting precincts 315 and 335 (covering the rural southwestern county line), 331 (between San Marcos and Wimberley), 333 and 337 (Wimberley area), 225 (Mountain City and areas surrounding SH 150 west of Kyle), 226 (Leisurewoods and other developments north of Buda) and 230 (west of FM 1626 from the Travis County line to a little north of Jack C. Hays Trail).
Within those mostly Hill Country precincts, 60.7 percent who voted straight party went Republican (7,807 out of 12,871).
Between those clearly Republican and Democratic regions is a set of buffer zones comprised of voting precincts 116 and 336 (San Marcos neighborhoods northwest of Texas State), as well as 221 (Plum Creek in Kyle) and 224 (downtown Buda and western housing developments on RM 967). The Union Pacific tracks run right through precincts 116, 221 and 224.
Within those border precincts, the Republicans and Democrats split the straight party vote roughly 50-50, with the Republicans holding a bare advantage of 1,716 to 1,709.
Despite the miniscule Democratic advantage in the straight party vote, President-elect Barack Obama (D-IL) lost the overall Hays County vote to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by a tiny margin, 29,624 to 28,416. The Republican precincts turned out 15,895 presidential voters who didn’t vote straight party, while the Democratic precincts produced only 9,975 such voters. McCain won 57.9 percent of those votes in the Republican precincts, while Obama took 56.4 percent in the Democratic precincts.
Republican and swing precincts nearest to Democratic strongholds in Buda, Kyle, San Marcos and Austin also went for popular Democrats. U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) carried Republican boxes 225, 226 and 230 by comfortable margins, and 440, 441, 442, 448 and 449 by less comfortable margins. Doggett also took every Democratic box and every swing box.
State Representative Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) won every box in Hays County, taking Republican boxes 225, 226 and 230 by margins of about 3-2 and winning the Dripping Springs and Wimberley Republican boxes by smaller proportions.
Hays County Tax Assessor/Collector Luanne Caraway (R-Kyle) won easy re-election by taking all her party’s boxes, in addition to every Democratic or swing box in the Buda-Kyle area by big amounts, except for 229, which she barely lost to Democratic challenger Robert Avera (449-441).Email | Print