In an election with nothing less at stake than the governing coalition of the Hays County Commissioners Court, voters in the two San Marcos precincts all but neutered County Judge Liz Sumter for the last two years of her term by returning two opposition votes for another four years.
Incumbent Will Conley (R-San Marcos) survived a Democratic Party student surge across the country and outlasted Steve Klepfer (D-Wimberley) to retain his Precinct 3 seat. Meanwhile, as expected, Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe won easy re-election against Nick Ramus (R-San Marcos) and Bill Wyatt (I-San Marcos).
“Those in the know certainly understood the importance,” Conley said. “This wasn’t just a race for Precinct 3. This was a race for the corridor … Most people don’t understand the politics of the court and know how many 3-2 votes we have on issues that are important in Hays County.”
As the court’s only Republican, Conley has fought to preserve pre-Sumter initiatives for the last two years, since the elections of Sumter, Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) swung the court to a 4-1 Democratic majority.
As it turned out, Conley and Barton have mostly agreed, particularly on infrastructural matters, while Sumter and Ford have mostly agreed in opposition. Ingalsbe has distinguished herself as a swing vote, going with Sumter and Ford in several 3-2 majorities in the first year of the new court, then voting mostly with Barton and Conley in 3-2 majorities during the last year.
In September, with the election two months away, Sumter asked Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe to investigate Ingalsbe and Conley, further alienating the commissioners by alleging that they authorized illegal road repairs within their precincts. Tibbe cleared the two commissioners within three working days.
Spared having to campaign while under district attorney investigations initiated by Sumter, the commissioners produced comfortable victories. Ingalsbe never faced much of a challenge, and Klepfer conceded to Conley at 9:20 p.m.
Ingalsbe took 63.7 percent of 9,425 votes cast, easily outdistancing Ramus, who still pulled 33.42 percent despite minimal campaigning. Wyatt, the candidate promoted by no-growthers, managed only 271 votes (2.88 percent) as a write-in. Still the court’s senior member, Ingalsbe will begin her fourth term in January.
Ingalsbe won seven of her eight voting precincts by wide margins, generally two-to-one or better. She struggled a bit more in voting precinct 116, which covers the higher-income southwest end of her district, but still won it by a 422-369 margin.
Conley found himself in a much tighter race against Klepfer, a Sumter ally and the former Wimberley mayor. Conley took 52.4 percent of 16,843 votes cast, compared with 42.5 percent for Klepfer and 5.1 percent for Libertarian candidate Deborah Wood.
“It was a tough race,” Conley said. “(Klepfer) ran very hard and, let’s be honest with each other, it was a tough year to be a Republican on the ticket. There were no coattails. I won this race based off the work I’ve done as commissioner, the wonderful support I have in Precinct 3 and where we’re going to take this county in the future.”
Conley proved himself more popular in the Wimberley area than the former mayor of that town, taking boxes 333, 335 and 337. Klepfer benefited from the young Democratic vote for Barack Obama in the Texas State precincts 330, 332 and 334, taking them by an aggregate vote of 2,744 to 2,456. However, Conley won the far northwest San Marcos boxes 315 and 336 by an even greater margin, 2,290 to 1,444.
Conley said he will now to go to work on the county’s pending tasks, among which are the management of a $207 million road bond that passed overwhelmingly in Tuesday’s election. Meanwhile, the county also is looking to build a new jail and a new administration facility without dramatically increasing the property tax rate.
“We’re going to have to prioritize and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions and we’re going to have to get smarter about how we do county government,” Conley said. “I think we can continue to reform some things, to be more efficient to make sure services are developed and maintained while we tackle some of these new issues. I believe that by focusing on our local economy, it will help us generate tax revenue to help pay for some of these necessities.”Email | Print