The “enthusiasm gap” between rabid Republicans and dormant Democrats, so much discussed on the national political stage this year, was clearly evident at the local polls, resulting in the almost complete disappearance of blue Hays County.
It’s not so much that the red Hays County overtook blue Hays County as that blue Hays County all but vanished. Among the most telling features to emerge from the canvas of the county election results is the flight of the straight ticket Democratic voter — not a red wave surging from Fischer Store Road to Niederwald Strasse.
In 2008, 29,035 Hays County voters (48.42 percent of a 59,961 turnout) voted straight party tickets. 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.
This year, 18,957 Hays County voters (47.3 percent of a 40,074 turnout) cast straight party ballots. The Republicans maintained a high level for an off-year election, numbering 11,156 straight ballots. But the Democratic straight ballot was cut almost in half, to 7,399.
Furthermore, college student turnout energized by Barack Obama’s Democratic presidential candidacy in 2008 went up in a puff of smoke this year, feeding the Democrats’ electoral demise. The three Hays County voting precincts with the lowest turnout — 446 at 17.15 percent, 334 at 20.12 percent and 120 at 22.55 percent — are characterized by heavy Texas State student populations.
Before going back to the mysterious patter about red Hays County and blue Hays County, let’s define them, based on the record turnout election of 2008.
The Union Pacific Railroad tracks could serve as a rough barrier, a buffer, between red Republican Hays County on the west and blue Democratic Hays County on the east. Not only was the straight ticket vote between Republicans and Democrats even in 2008, but it also was even east and west of the tracks. Republicans cast about 60 percent of the straight vote in the west and Democrats cast about 60 percent of the straight vote in the east. A neutral zone straddling the tracks also emerged during that election, with Republicans and Democrats splitting the straight ticket vote in that zone.
The two (or three) Hays Counties defined by the 2008 election:
Red Hays County — The Republican stronghold on the west side of the tracks 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 (Leisure Woods 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).
Blue Hays County — 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), 446 (north San Marcos between Interstate-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).
Buffer zone — The area straddling the railroad tracks is 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.
How did these two (or three) Hays Counties fare in the 2010 election?
Not surprisingly, red Hays County turned a little more red this year. In 2008, 60.7 percent who voted straight party within those mostly Hill Country precincts went Republican (7,807 out of 12,871). In 2010, 68.8 percent of straight votes in red Hays County went Republican. Moreover, a huge majority of straight Republican voters who turned out in red Hays County for 2008 returned to the polls in 2010. Straight Republican ballots in red Hays County fell only from 7,807 in 2008 to 6,702 in 2010. Meanwhile, the straight Democratic vote in red Hays County dwindled from 5,064 in 2008 to 3,041 in 2010.
The buffer zone defined in 2008, which could have been called “purple Hays County” then, turned all the way red in 2010. In 2008, the straight party vote in the purple zone was split in half, with 1,716 straight ballots going Republican and 1,709 going Democrat. In 2010, 1,186 straight ballots in the buffer zone went Republican, compared with 794 straight ballots for the Democrats.
Blue Hays County stayed barely blue in 2010. In 2008, 61.7 percent of the straight ticket votes in the blue zone went Democratic (7,492 out of 12,149). In 2010, Democrats claimed 3,564 straight ballots in the zone, compared with 3,268 for the Republicans. In the span of one two-year election cycle, the Democratic share of the straight ballot in its strongest half of the county fell to 52.1 percent.
As Republicans swept the contested elections at Hays County ballot boxes, no Democrat could count on protection from his base, not even close to home.
State Representative Patrick Rose (D-San Marcos) and U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, (D-Austin), both of whom romped through Hays County in 2008, both lost Hays County in 2010. Doggett survived, despite losing every county in his district except Travis County to his challenger, Republican Donna Campbell. But Rose lost his bid for a fifth term in the state legislature to challenger Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).
Hays County judge hopeful Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) has won two elections to be the commissioner from Precinct 2 on the east side of the county. This year, Precinct 2 (based in Buda and Kyle) in blue Hays County turned against Barton in favor of political newcomer Bert Cobb (R-San Marcos), who claimed 52.9 percent of the Precinct 2 vote.
Of ten boxes in that commissioners precinct, Barton carried only five, by a combined total of 88 votes. Barton didn’t even have enough friends in Precinct 226, basically the Leisure Woods subdivision northwest of Buda, where the expansion of FM 1626 is the No. 1 wish and Barton has fought like a cat trying to make it happen. Precinct 226 turned up a mere advantage of 710-682 for Barton in this election.
As Barton has busy adversaries on the west side of the county, he figured to struggle there even if Republicans weren’t sweeping the nation. But the Republican turnout in the red west sealed the deal for 2010. In western Commissioners Precincts 3 and 4, Cobb swamped Barton 13,544 to 8,477 (61.5 percent). Yet, Barton received more votes in Precincts 3 and 4 than he received in eastern Precincts 1 and 2, which he won by a combined 8,438 to 8,146.
In 2008, Doggett won every Democratic box and every swing box in Hays County. Doggett also won Republican boxes 225, 226 and 230 by comfortable margins, and 440, 441, 442, 448 and 449 by smaller margins. In 2010, Doggett won only one swing box, 116, and that by only 265-250. He won no Republican boxes, and he lost Democratic boxes 110, 127, 223, 227 and 230.
In 2008, Rose won every box in Hays County, claiming Republican boxes 225 and 226 by 3-2 margins. In 2010, Rose won only 12 of 36 Hays County boxes. He split the buffer boxes, winning 116 and 336. Rose won no Republican boxes and lost reliably Democratic boxes 127, 223 and 230.
While the three boxes with the lowest turnouts are in blue Hays County, the boxes with the eight highest turnouts for 2010 are in red Hays County, led by 331 (61.94 percent), 442 (60.35), 315 (59.06), 443 (58.96) and 333 (58.85). No box in red Hays County turned out fewer than 48.15 percent of its voters.
Claiming the highest turnout in blue Hays County is 230 at 55.28 percent, followed by 110 at 44.0 percent and 111 at 36.29 percent.
The turnout of 40,074 constituted 41.95 percent of the registered voters in Hays County. And the overwhelming majority of them were Republican in 2010. Or were the overwhelming minority Democrats?Email | Print