by JEN BIUNDO
It was only half an hour after the polls closed on election night, a time when most candidates were anxiously tallying ballot boxes, but Mark Jones was already riding high on a resounding political victory.
Early voting returns gave Jones nearly 80 percent of the ballots in the GOP primary race for Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner, leaving virtually no chance that his opponent, former Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez, could make up the margin.
Jones, a current Hays CISD school board trustee, will meet former Kyle Councilmember Ray Bryant at the November polls in the fight for the precinct 2 seat, which represents Buda and Kyle on the Hays County Commissioners Court. Bryant ran unopposed in the Democrat Primary Tuesday night, with the incumbent commissioner, Democrat Jeff Barton, making a successful bid for the County Judge nomination.
November will come all too soon for both Bryant and Jones, but after the decisive primary night win, the new GOP candidate was ready to take a breath.
“I’m going to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in a while, and catch up on some family time,” Jones said. “We’re going to enjoy tonight, and then get back to work. We want to work just as hard in the finals as we did in this preliminary race.”
Jones took the seat by a final margin of 77 percent out of 2,414 ballots cast, beating Gonzalez in each of the ten precincts that voted in the race. Gonzalez did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
Both Jones and Gonzalez had for years held political positions that made them well-known quantities throughout the community. But Jones’s dogged efforts and high visibility on the campaign trail overshadowed his opponent.
“I just think we worked really hard,” Jones said at his watch party at the First Baptist Church of Kyle. “We had a lot of great volunteers going door to door, making phone calls, emailing people. We put everything into it and our hard work paid off.”
For recession-time voters, much of the dialogue surrounding the race turned to how the two candidates had handled their respective budgets in the city and school board.
In Kyle, rapid growth has meant a high debt load for the city, with a resulting impact on the city’s tax rate. The 2008 property tax rate of 37 cents was set to rise to nearly 49 cents in the 2009-10 fiscal year and nearly 70 cents in the next year, though councilmembers refinanced debt to keep the FY 09-10 rate down to 42 cents. The school district has also been hit by fast growth, but has kept the tax rate static for several years despite voter-approved construction bonds.
“In the school board we’ve been able to stay within the budget without raising our tax rate, and build new schools and still offer a quality education,” Jones said. “That’s the kind of thing the county needs.”
Jones described the other issues in the race as “growth, traffic, roads, water and leadership,” and said he would work to complete work on FM 1626, push for construction of SH 45 Southwest to connect FM 1626 to Mopac Expressway, and seek out more water sources to take pressure off limited aquifer groundwater.
Jones, by profession a land appraiser, was a founding member of Central Texas Life Care, an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center. He is serving his second term on the Hays CISD board of trustees, and will not have to resign his seat if he loses the November election for county commissioner.
Jen Biundo is managing editor of the Hays Free Press where this article was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Mercury and the Free Press.Email | Print