Central Texas primaries: Upsets, runoffs and a few surprises

Published: Mar. 5, 2018 at 7:18 PM CST
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The race for the Texas Democratic gubernatorial nomination will be decided in a runoff, McLennan County’s district attorney loses in an upset and a Central Texas state lawmaker faces a runoff in his battle for another term after Tuesday’s primary elections.


Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz easily deflected a challenge by Bruce Jacobson, Jr., Gerlandine Sam, Mary Miller and Stefano de Stefano to claim the Republican nomination for another term Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke claimed the Democratic Senate nomination, defeating Edward Kimbrough and Sema Hernandez.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott swept over Barbara Krueger and S. Kilgore to claim the GOP nomination for another term.

In a statement, Abbott said, "We cannot afford to take Texas for granted."

"This is a fight for our future and it begins now,” he said.

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston investor Andrew White, the son of the late former Texas Gov. Mark White, were the top vote-getters in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

They advance to a runoff.

"I look forward to taking the opportunity to make my case and earn every single vote I can before the runoff election in May. This is our chance to show Texas the kind of leadership we deserve and the kind of future we can build together," White said in a post-election statement.

Texas voters also decided primary races for lieutenant governor, comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner, railroad commissioner, presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Pl. 8 seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Central Texas

Dale Mantey lost to Rick Kennedy in the Democratic U.S. House Dist. 11 primary.

Kennedy will challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Flores of Bryan in the fall.

Chris Peri and Julie Oliver advanced to a runoff in the Democratic U.S. House Dist. 25 race.

The winner will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Roger Williams of Austin.

Veteran Dist. 31 Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter of Round Rock turned back a challenge from Mike Sweeney Tuesday.

“I’m honored to be the Republican nominee for Texas’ 31st Congressional District and continue fighting for our conservative values.

"We had a strong win this evening, and I could not have done it without the support of the voters in Bell and Williamson counties. Now it's time for Republicans to unite to win in November and keep Texas red,” Carter said in a post-election statement late Tuesday night.

Four Democrats, Mike Clark, Mary Hegar, Kent Lester and Christine Mann, were seeking the nomination for the Dist. 31 seat in the U.S. House.

Hegar and Mann advanced to a runoff.

Central Texas voters also decided primary races for a half-dozen state legislative seats.

Incumbent Republican Dist. 5 state Sen. Charles Schwertner defeated Harold Ramm in the GOP primary.

Meg Walsh won the Democratic primary race for the Dist. 5 seat.

First term state Rep. Scott Cosper of Killeen will face Brad Buckley in a runoff.

First term state Rep. Hugh Shine of Temple defeated challengers Brandy Hall and CJ Grisham.

Gatesville Republican state Rep. J.D. Sheffield turned back a challenge from Chris Evans.

McLennan County

One of the most heated local races on the March ballot pitted incumbent McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna against challenger Barry Johnson and Johnson led from the beginning.

Reyna conceded the race at around 10 p.m. just as the final vote came in.

“As far as the results tonight, I want to congratulate Mr. Johnson on his victory. I have always known I serve at the will of the people and if Mr. Johnson is what the people want then Mr. Johnson is what the people get,” Reyna said.

Johnson won with 60 percent of the vote.

“Things have gone well and we are grateful they’ve turned out the way it has tonight. It has been a long run,” Johnson said.

If elected in November Johnson said, “We are going to make several changes. We look forward to bringing back that honesty and that integrity (to the office).”

Waco attorney Seth Sutton filed as the lone Democratic candidate for district attorney, but withdrew before the primary, although his name remained on the ballot.

Independent Daniel Hare, however, plans to run in November.

McLennan County voters this year will also elect a successor to longtime Pct. 2 McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson.

Vernon Davis, Donis “D. L.” Wilson and Gina Ford were seeking the Republican nomination.

Wilson, a retired Department of Public Safety trooper, claimed 64 percent of the vote.

“It's my first time to step off into politics, so it's been a real pleasant time,” Wilson said.

“We want to unite the county,” he said.

“I want to work for East Waco, North Waco, for Mart, for Axtell, for Riesel. I want to work for everybody.”

Gibson’s longtime assistant Patricia “Pat” Chisolm-Miller defeated Norman J. Manning in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Republican Pct. 4 McLennan County Commissioner Ben Perry defeated challenger Mel Priest Tuesday.

Attorney Denny Lessman fell short in his challenge to incumbent Dianne Hensley in the Republican race for McLennan County Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 Pl. 1.

Incumbent Pct. 3 Constable David A Maler defeated challenger Danny Lee Volcik in the Republican primary.

Bell County

In Bell County Republicans Randy Dale, Paul LePak, Steve Duskie and Jeff Parker were running to succeed 264th State District Judge Martha Trudo.

LePak and Parker will face each other in a runoff race for the nomination.

Republican Gaylon Evans defeated Jeanette Compean in the race to succeed County Treasurer Charles Jones.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 2 Commissioner Tim Brown faced a challenge from Bobby Whitson and Brit Owen Tuesday.

He was the top vote-getter, but will face Whitson in a runoff.

Democrat John Driver defeated Louie Minor in the race to challenge Republican Pct. 4 Commissioner John Fisher.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Theodore R. “Ted” Duffield easily turned back a challenge from Louis “Lou” Griffin, Jr.

Republican Cliff Coleman narrowly defeated Richard Sapp in the race to succeed Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Donald Engleking.

Bell County Republican Chair Nancy Boston easily defeated challenger Zenia Warren Tuesday.

Coryell County

In Coryell County, Republicans Alan Mathis, John Derrick, Roger Miller, Allen Wayne Avery, Janice Gray and Bob Harrell were running to succeed County Judge John Firth.

Gray and Miller will face each other again in a runoff.

Republicans Joey Acfalle, Becky Moore, Jeremy Pruitt and Kelly Caldwell Bragewitz were running to succeed District Clerk Janice Gray, who’s running for the county judge’s seat.

Moore was the top vote-getter, but she will face Pruitt in a runoff.

Republicans Cindy Hitt, Randi McFarlin and Misti Maxwell Morra were in a race to succeed County Treasurer Donna Medford.

McFarlin and Hitt will face each other again in a runoff.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 2 Commissioner Daren Moore defeated challenger Scott Weddle Tuesday and incumbent Republican Pct. 2 Commissioner Ray Ashby defeated challenger Keith Taylor.

Republicans Gary Stiles, Doran Belknap, Jr., and Jim Caldwell are running for Pct. 3 justice of the peace.

Limestone County

Incumbent Republican Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen was defeated Tuesday in a four-candidate race.

Mark Roark and Richard Duncan advance to a runoff.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 2 Commissioner W. A. “Sonny” Baker defeated challengers Bennie Kirven and Andrew Taulton, Sr.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 4 Commissioner Bobby Forrest defeated challengers Larry D. Black, James W. Wiley and Randy Bostain.

Lampasas County

In Lampasas County, Republican District Clerk Cody Reed, who was arrested in early February on a misdemeanor theft by a public servant charge stemming from the investigation of the theft of a refrigerator in August 2017, was the odd man out in the GOP primary Tuesday.

Edith Wagner Harrison was the top vote getter in the race, and advances to a runoff against Trina Hudson, who received two more votes than Reed.

Incumbent Republican County Judge Larry Allison and challenger Randy Hoyer advanced to a runoff.

Incumbent Republican Connie Hartman defeated challenger Sharon Fortner.

Melissa Karcher defeated Sharon Watson in the Republican primary race for county treasurer.

Jamie Smart and Ron Farr advanced to a runoff in the Republican primary race for Pct. 2 county commissioner.

Interest in the midterm primaries was high

Turnout was heavy at some area voting sites Tuesday.

Bell County’s election administrator, Melinda Luedecke, said she was surprised by the turnout.

“This time around voter numbers have been down from 2016 with the presidential election. But when we look back at the 2014 race, the last governor election and midterms they are up from there.”

Early voting statewide set a record for a midterm election this year.

Democratic participation in early voting was up nearly 50 percent over four years ago and Republican turnout was up slightly.

In 2014 in McLennan County, 6,025 residents voted early. This year the early vote totaled 10,833.

In 2014 in Bell County, 8,100 voted early. This year 13,195 voted early.

In 2014 in Coryell County, 1,818 voted early. The number this year was 3,361.

Democratic turnout for Texas' primary exceeded primary midterm vote totals not seen since 1994, the last time a Democrat won a statewide office.

More than 1,036,950 voters cast ballots for the U.S. Senate race in Tuesday's Democratic primary, the party's highest midterm primary election total in at least 24 years.

Republicans also set a new non-presidential year primary turnout record, exceeding 1.5 million votes Tuesday.