San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

Driven by free-for-alls in most statewide races and several heated regional and county contests, voters are beating a path to early voting locations compared to years past. 

Hays County party primary early voting, 2010 to 2014

 

Hays County Republican Party

Hays County Democratic Party

To-Date*

Early Voting Total

To-Date*

Early Voting Total

2014

3,692

3,692

1,213

1,213

2012

3,886

3,886

1,236

1,236

2010

923

923

701

701

*As of the last day of early voting on 02/28/14


by BRAD ROLLINS

A ballot crowded from top to bottom — including high-profile races for state senate and district attorney — is driving heavy turnout in early voting for the Republican Party primary, nearly four times the number of red votes cast at this point in the cycle four years ago.

With five days of early voting remaining, 1,347 people have voted in the Hays County Republican Party primary as of Sunday, according to Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan. At this point during early voting in 2010, the most recent non-presidential election year, 358 people had cast GOP ballots, roughly a quarter (26.6 percent) of this year’s turnout.

Participation in the Democratic Party primary has increased as well. During the first week of early voting this year, 421 people cast blue ballots, compared to 267 in 2010.

The reason for the surge in Republican voters is “obvious,” Hays GOP chair Russell Hayter said, the result of hotly contested races for his party’s nominations ranging from lieutenant governor to a Hays County Pct. 1 justice of the peace bench.

“Turnout is going to be high just because of the number of contested races and we’ve had an awful lot of activity in Hays County from the candidates,” Hayter said. “… I think it’s up and down the ballot, from the bottom to the top, people are interested in having an opportunity to voice their opinion on political leadership and the future — and I think that’s a good thing.”

Although U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, running for a third term, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, running for governor, did not draw primary challengers who have shown even fleeting any signs of viability, nearly every other statewide race is anyone’s to win, or to lose. Three Republicans — Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and State Sen. Dan Patrick — are competing to unseat Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, freshly wounded by his primary loss two years ago to now-U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. The GOP ballot is packed with three candidates running to succeed Greg Abbott as attorney general; four running to succeed Susan Combs as comptroller; and five running to succeed Staples as agriculture commissioner.

Down ballot, State Sen. Donna Campbell has two opponents, Elisa Chan and Mike Novak, who are pulling no punches in their attempts to unseat the eccentric freshman lawmaker. In the race for Hays County District Attorney, Kyle attorney Lynn Peach — who just a few years ago listed her political affiliation on Facebook as “very liberal” — has mounted an aggressive race against assistant attorney general Wes Mau, the presumptive front-runner who has already run, and only very narrowly lost, a race for district attorney in 2006. Even the two Republicans running for Justice of the Peace Pct. 1, Place 2 — San Marcos real estate investor Peggy Jones and former Hays County compliance department director Judy Seim — have managed to bring an element of drama to their bids to take on longtime incumbent Margie Hernandez, a Democrat.

This year’s intra-party showdowns are, indeed, plentiful and impassioned which no doubt accounts for some of the increased voter interest. But 2010 was not exactly a sleepy year for Republicans, either.

In the 2010 primaries, tens of millions in campaign dollars were being poured into U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s failed attempt to oust Gov. Rick Perry while third wheel Debra Medina excited voters who identify with the tea party movement. In Hays County, San Marcos physician Bert Cobb was locked in a battle for the Republican Party nomination with San Marcos real estate investor Peggy Jones. Meanwhile, Hays CISD school board president Mark Jones and Kyle Mayor Miguel Gonzalez were seeking the nomination for Hays County Pct. 2 commissioner, a race that was closely watched though Jones ultimately won easily. Cobb and Mark Jones went on to best their Democratic Party opponents that fall.

The increase in Democratic Party turnout comes despite the lack of marquee primary contests, either up- or down- ballot.

Four years ago, County Judge Elizabeth Sumter was unsuccessfully fighting off a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Jeff Barton, the Pct. 2 commissioner, and Sheriff Tommy Ratliff was fending off former deputy Bill Huddleston. As the Democratic Party’s presence in county government shrinks — there are only two Democrats elected countywide left and one of those is not seeking re-election  — there are no  races approaching that magnitude in Hays County this cycle and, for that matter, there are none in the statewide races.

Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte all but certainly have locked up their party’s nominations for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. The only contested statewide Democratic Party race with any potential widespread interest is for agriculture commissioner where contrarian comedian Kinky Friedman of Kerrville hopes his untempered support for marijuana legalization will carry him over two more traditional candidates, Dimmit County bison rancher Hugh Asa Fitzsimons II and Johnson County cattle Jim Hogan.

In Hays County this year, there are no contested races for the Democratic Party nomination for countywide or precinct offices. County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Linda Rodriguez is seeking re-election as are justices of the peace Margie Hernandez, Beth Smith and Scott J. Cary. In November, Rodriguez will face Buda resident David Glickler, a Texas assistant attorney general who does not have an opponent on the GOP ticket, and Hernandez will face the victor in the Peggy Jones versus Judy Seim bout. Smith and Cary are home-free without opponents in either party.

The local Democratic Party is also fielding Hays County Human Resources safety officer Abel Velasquez against County Judge Bert Cobb. Former deputy county clerk Gina Islas-Mendoza is teeing up for a rematch against County Clerk Liz Gonzalez, a Republican who has held the office since 2010.



CORRECTION 4:21 p.m. FEB. 24: This story should have stated that 421 people have voted in the Hays County Democratic Party this year compared to 267 during the same point in balloting in 2010. Due to a clerical error, those totals were reversed in an earlier version of this story.

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One thought on “GOP primary turnout on course to nearly quadruple over 2010

  1. Democrats have a primary for U.S. Senate too that has five candidates running. That’s an important statewide race for Dems.

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