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

March 6th, 2008
County bucks Texas trend

Editor at Large

KYLE – Ending a primary season of record turnouts, Hays County voters bucked the trend across Texas Tuesday as local Democrats went heavily for Illinois Senator Barack Obama as their preferred Presidential nominee.

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, Obama took 56.18 percent of the Democratic vote in Hays County, easily outpointing New York Senator Hillary Clinton (42.91 percent). Four other names since fallen from the picture – Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards and Bill Richardson – combined for 0.87 percent of the Hays County vote.

However, Clinton won the statewide contest with 50.87 percent, compared with 47.39 percent for Obama. More than 2.8 million Texans voted in the Democratic primary, accounting for 22.44 percent of the state’s 12.8 million registered voters.

The Democratic turnout alone beat the former record for a Texas presidential primary set in 1988, when 2.7 million voters turned out in the Democratic and Republican elections combined. Nearly 1.4 million Republicans also voted this year, bring the total across both parties to 4.2 million in 2008.

The final total blew past a predicted record by the Secretary of State’s office, which had forecast 3.3 million voters. The office predicted a 25-percent turnout, then 33 percent of the registered voters cast ballots.

Texas voters responded to a circumstance missing from the last four presidential election cycles – undecided races in both parties on the day of the primary. Though Arizona Senator John McCain came to Texas with a huge lead over former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, he still hadn’t clinched the delegates needed for the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama came to Texas tightly matched, though the latter’s streak of 11 straight primary victories marked him as the front runner.

McCain notched 80 primary delegates in Texas with 51.23 percent of the statewide vote, vaulting him past the 1,191 national delegates needed for his party’s nomination. Huckabee fared respectably in Texas with 37.81 percent, but that share brought him only 16 delegates.

McCain took only 44.90 percent of the Hays County Republican vote, which still placed him ahead of every other candidate. Huckabee took 34.77 percent of the vote in Hays County, followed by 16.37 percent for Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who used to represent eastern portions of the county.

The Democrats’ split system in Texas, which includes the primary election and precinct caucuses, could yield counter-intuitive results. Clinton won 65 delegates from the primary vote, compared with 61 for Obama. However, according to Associated Press estimates, Obama held a 30-27 lead among caucus delegates through Wednesday’s count.

If Obama should take seven of the remaining ten caucus delegates, he would beat Clinton in total Texas delegates despite losing the popular vote. The state Democratic Party released projections Wednesday suggesting Obama will do exactly that, finishing with a 37-30 lead in caucus delegates and a 98-95 win in overall delegates.

As was the case across Texas, the sheer volume of participation in Hays County exercised as much fascination as the results. Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan made a final prediction of 15,000 primary election voters. By Tuesday’s end, the Democrats beat that by themselves with 20,025 voters.

Add in 7,999 Republican voters and the countywide total reached 28,024, which is 32.3 percent of Hays County’s 86,630 registered voters. Fewer than 9,000 Hays County voters turned out for the 2004 presidential primary.

While voting turnout raised eyebrows, the crowded caucus process kept participants busy well into the night. Every Democratic caucusing convention in Hays County Precinct 2 reported between 150 and 200 participants. Combined with long lines at the polls and a requirement that caucuses begin no sooner than 15 minutes after the last ballot, it wasn’t uncommon for caucus conventions to last until 10 p.m.

At Kyle City Hall, where the last Democrat voted at 8:30 p.m. due to a long line at closing time, the conventions for Precincts 223 and 227 couldn’t begin until 8:45 p.m. As the delegate selection process requires caucus participants to sign in and name their presidential preferences, it wasn’t until nearly 11 p.m. that Precinct 227 announced its delegate split.

A broad majority of local precinct conventions cast most of their delegates for Obama. Precinct 227 went 15-8 for Obama over Clinton, Precinct 223 went 14-13 for Obama, while Precinct 225 in Mountain City went 17-12 for Obama.

The county precinct delegates will move on to the Hays County Democratic Convention later this month, with the delegates selected at that convention going on the state convention. The national party convention is scheduled for August 25-28 in Denver.

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