by JENNIFER BIUNDO
A couple hours before the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, Hays County GOP Party Chair Bud Wymore was feeling optimistic. America looked poised to ride a wave of Republican sentiment all the way to a congressional majority, pulling the races down-ballot along for the ride.
“Of course, national politics and statewide politics are never an exact indicator of what’s going to happen locally, but I think there is enough Republican enthusiasm nationally and statewide that we’re going to see some of that spill over into Hays County,” Wymore said.
That may have been the understatement of the century: by the time election night drew to a close, the famously purple county had turned solid red. Of the 28 contested races on the Hays County ballot, every one of them saw a resounding Republican victory Tuesday night.
Almost 42 percent of Hays County’s 95,000 registered voters turned out to the polls this year. Nearly half of them took the straight ticket option, with 58.85 percent of single-party votes going to Republicans and 39.03 for Democrats.
There was no fighting a nationwide zeitgeist, said Democrat Party Chair Katie Bell Moore
“The wave went through Texas and it went through Hays County,” Moore said. “It’s not really about any of our candidates but it’s about the sentiment of the country. … unfortunately we just have to go with the wave.”
Just after 7 p.m., the first round of early voting returns brought exuberant cheers from the Republican Party stalwarts gathered in Driftwood at the Creekside Pavillion. Though they walked in the door smelling victory, even the most faithful hadn’t anticipated than many of their candidates would lead by a 20 point landslide. The precinct boxes that rolled in throughout the night only solidified the GOP lead and the festive mood.
Meanwhile, the Democrats gathered around the square in San Marcos mourned the loss of their tenuous hold on the county.
“I feel like I’m at a wake,” said Patrick Cox, a Democrat.
In one of the biggest upsets of the state, challenger Jason Isaac knocked four-term incumbent Democrat Patrick Rose out of his seat in the Texas House. Incumbent Tommy Ratliff lost his sheriff’s badge to GOP challenger Gary Cutler, and the Republicans swept other county-wide seats for district clerk, county clerk and judgeships.
The Hays County Commissioners Court, which flipped from a 4-1 Republican majority to a 4-1 Democrat bloc in 2006, performed a similarly abrupt about-face Tuesday night. With the victory of GOP candidates in the race for county judge and two commissioners seats, Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe will be back to her old familiar role as the lone Democrat on the court this January.
Indeed, the only Democrats spared the axe this year were the four who didn’t draw a GOP challenger in the spring primaries: District Attorney Sherri Tibbe, County Court at Law Judge Linda Rodriguez and Justices of the Peace Beth Smith and Margie Hernandez.
Of all the Republicans on the county ballot, the worst performer was Gov. Rick Perry, who garnered only 51.75 percent of the Hays votes. Almost 44 percent of Hays ballots went to Democrat challenger Bill White, while 3.84 percent supported Libertarian Kathie Glass.
Long-time Democrat U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett managed to retain his seat, which includes a large and solidly left-leaning slice of Travis County. But his Hays County constituents showed him little love, preferring his GOP challenger Donna Campbell with more than 55 percent of the vote.
As the victors step into office this January, Wymore said voters could expect to see “a more fiscally responsible Hays County that’s going to get back to the basics of building roads and making sure that we plan for the future responsibly.”
Mark Jones, who handily won his Pct. 2 Commissioners race by 12 points, said voters embraced the GOP in the hopes that the newly elected Republicans would be able to stay within a budget without raising taxes. And, he noted, the newly elected officials owed it to their constituents to stay true to that promise.
“It’s going to put a lot of responsibilities on the commissioners that have just come on,” Jones said. “The county has said, ‘this is what kind of philosophy we’re looking for, and you need to follow up.’ It wasn’t that long ago that the congress had a mandate under Newt Gingrich and they let that run away from them. I think we have to stand firm on what got us here and why we won.”
County Judge-elect Bert Cobb agreed with that assessment.
“I think there was a definite anti-incumbency movement,” Cobb said. “People were saying, ‘what we’re doing isn’t working, so let’s try something different.’ But if the people who’ve been elected tonight don’t use fiscal discipline, in four years, we’ll be on the chopping block.”Email | Print