Democratic nominee for Hays County Judge Jeff Barton, his wife Cyndy and daughter Bozenna use the Internet to tell son Zach Barton (who is overseas) about Tuesday night’s primary victory. Former Hays County and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting is in the background. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton prevailed in the Democratic primary for Hays County judge Tuesday, sending incumbent Liz Sumter to a bitter defeat at the hands of one of her most persistent adversaries on the commissioners court.
Barton claimed 56.2 percent of 5,526 votes cast, compared to 43.7 percent for Sumter.
“It feels great to win by a flattering margin,” Barton said. “But I’m really mindful that this is just the beginning, and I need to go to work right away putting together a coalition that can win in November, reaching out to people who may be committed members of our community but aren’t necessarily committed Democrats. We have a lot of challenges facing Hays County and we need to be finding ways to grow smarter. We want to be finding ways to grow with grace, because most of us recognize we are going to grow. The question is, ‘How?'”
Barton clashed with Sumter over key issues ever since both won their seats in 2006. Barton accused Sumter of committing “serious lapses in judgment” and sowing discord between the county and other governmental entities, while Sumter criticized Barton’s ethics and said he lacks the ability to “follow through” on county business.
Barton received 3,109 votes to Sumter’s 2,416 and won 25 of 36 voter precincts. Sumter conquered voter precincts 333, 335, 337, 440, 441, 442, 443, 444, 448, 449, and 447, the last of which includes the portion of San Marcos through which Lime Kiln Road wends. Barton lost by the smallest margin — six votes — in precinct 447. The precincts Sumter won include all of central, western, and northwestern Hays County. .
Barton won by the largest margin in voter precinct 226, where he garnered 203 votes to Sumter’s 32. Precinct 226 straddles the Travis County line and includes the area just east of FM 1626, north of FM 967 and west of Interstate-35.
Barton’s second-largest win occurred in precinct 113, where he received 204 votes to Sumter’s 72. Precinct 113 overlays a thin strip of San Marcos east of I-35, north of Centerpoint Road and south of SH 80. Barton obtained almost the same margin of victory in precinct 230, where he received 204 votes to Sumter’s 73. Precinct 230 includes an area between Onion Creek and the Travis County line, mostly east of FM 1626 and somewhat southeast of FM 1826. Sumter lost by the smallest margin — six votes — in precinct 229, a crescent of land east of I-35 and northwest of Spanish Trail and Camino Real.
Sumter won by the widest margins in precinct 335 and 337, which comprise most of the Wimberley area. In precinct 337, she outpolled Barton 239 votes to 105. Sumter carried precinct 335 by 200 to 80.
“I knew this wouldn’t be an easy race, and I respect their loyalty to Judge Sumter,” Barton said of the county’s western voters. “I had a great conversation with Judge Sumter tonight, and we’ll be looking for ways to reach out to those supporters and talk to them about what we share in common — because Judge Sumter and I certainly disagree on some issues, and we have differences in style, certainly, but we do share a lot of common goals, even if we might get there slightly differently.
“I think it won’t be hard to find ties that will help bind …,” Barton continued, “because, again I think when you talk about how we prepare for water, when you talk about a progressive vision for Hays County, a lot of us may disagree on transitory political issues, but we can come together around principles that will matter over time. And that’s what I’ll hope to be talking to people about, and healing some of the rifts that have developed, and I hope we’ll have a unified Democratic Party in the fall. But I also hope that we build beyond that base, because I recognize this is a purple county, a county with a lot of independent-minded people.”
Sumter was not immediately available for comment. Barton will face-off against Republican primary winner Bert Cobb in the November general election.