COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
Local Republican leaders say they are alarmed that Democrats crossing over to vote in Tuesday’s primary election could swing the results.
An analysis conducted by Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley’s campaign showed that 180 of about 800 early voters in his contest as of Monday had previously voted in the Democratic Party primary, the campaign said. Conley is being challenged by San Marcos resident Sam Brannon, whom Conley says is backed by familiar Wimberley Democrats like Texas State sociology professor Sally Caldwell. Caldwell, a prominent backer of former County Judge Elizabeth Sumter, voted this week in the Republican contest.
“A group of Wimberley Democrats is actively working to sabotage our Republican Primary by organizing Democrats to vote en masse for liberals like Sam Brannon — who just became a Republican so he can run for county commissioner,” Hays County Republican chair Bud Wymore wrote in a letter undersigned by three of his predecessors in that role, Linda Kinney, Mike Cox and Mary Joe Roddie.
(The letter did not address the possibility that Democrats who fear Brannon’s call to freeze all road and parks improvements could be crossing over to vote for Conley, who has championed both.)
The signatories to the letter also said they are concerned that low voter turnout in the abnormal late-May primary could make it easier for Brannon and former Sheriff Tommy Ratliff, who declared himself a Republican late last year after serving in office as Democrat, to wrest control of the party from longer-term Republicans. Because of ongoing legal wrangling over Republican-drawn redistricting maps, the primary was pushed back from its usual early March date to April and then to May.
“That makes it very easy for a group of radical Wimberley Democrats to sabotage our primary and steal our Republican Party,” the party chairs wrote.
Voters have been turning out in greater numbers the later part of this week but it’s still not clear, however, if turnout will match that of 2008 when 8,041 people voted in the Republican primary. As of Thursday, 3,185 people had voted in the Republican primary. That is actually more than voted in the GOP at this point in early voting in 2008 but it is hard to say how much Democratic crossover is pumping up that total.
Democratic Party turnout, meanwhile, stands at 971 early votes cast through Thursday.
Early voting continues today at the Hays County Government Center on Wonder World Drive. Election Day is Tuesday, May 29.