Herman: Final notes on the 2018 Texas primary elections

Updated March 13, 2018
Eric Gay
A supporter of senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke holds a sign during a Democratic watch party following the Texas primary election March 6 in Austin. ERIC GAY / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The March 6 primaries are behind us, so let’s look back on some things worth looking back on.

First, there were no GOP primary voters in Foard and Zavala counties.

Zavala, down near our southern border, is kind of understandable. It’s heavily Democratic, and it’s quite possible there’s not a Republican in the county. Or at least very few willing to admit it. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 77.6 percent of the votes in Zavala County. Donald Trump got 20.4 percent. And Democrats easily carried the county in every statewide race.

Up near our northern state line, Foard County is a different story. There’s no GOP county chair so the party contracted with County Clerk Debra Hopkins to run the GOP primary. She told me only one voter cast a GOP ballot “but he didn’t vote for anybody.” So there’ll be no Republicans on the local ballot in Foard in November. Everyone on the Foard County Commissioners Court is a Democrat. But all statewide Republican candidates carried Foard County in 2016.

Also noteworthy statewide: Highly touted Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke got only 61.8 percent of the primary vote in earning the nod to challenge Republican Ted Cruz in November. That means about 396,000 Democrats didn’t want O’Rourke as their Senate nominee.

RELATED: Primary election shows Texas Democrats face uphill climb

By comparison, Cruz won renomination with 85.3 percent of the vote, which meant 226,262 GOP primary voters wanted somebody else as their U.S. Senate nominee.

Perhaps more noteworthy is that O’Rourke — a third-term congressman from El Paso who faced token-at-best opposition from Edward Kimbrough and Sema Hernandez — did not prevail in several heavily Democratic South Texas border counties, including Webb (county seat Laredo), where Hernandez got 49.5 percent to O’Rourke’s 41.7 percent.

Hernandez, a Bernie Sanders-style Democrat, has tweeted that she spent less than $4,000 on her campaign and “focused on the issues. People don’t want platitudes, they want a fighter.” She’s pushed back against the notion that her last name was the reason for her solid showing in some border counties.

O’Rourke prevailed over Hernandez by relatively small margins in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s most populous.

Going forward, the good news for O’Rourke is that border county voters most likely will go for an Irish-surnamed Dem over a Hispanic-surnamed Repub in November.

Another Democratic primary leftover worth noting: Jose “Chito” Vela led in the Texas House District 46 race with 39.6 percent to get into a runoff with Sheryl Cole, who got 38.2 percent. That race marked the end of the 12-term House career of Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin.

Thanks to the miracle that is the legislative pension system (created by legislators), when she leaves office in January, Dukes will go from being a $7,200-a-year (plus $190 a day when the Legislature’s in session) lawmaker to being an involuntarily retired lawmaker collecting an annual pension somewhere in the $75,000 range.

Yes, some lawmakers (including those rejected by voters) are paid a lot more to stop making laws than they were paid to make them. God bless Texas.

Another primary note worth noting came in the nonbinding ballot propositions the parties stack on their ballots in anticipation of finding overwhelming support for them. “Yes” always wins, often garnering 90 percent support or more.

So the outcome on the Republicans’ abortion-related Proposition 7 is an outlier. Let’s recall that the Texas GOP platform calls for state lawmakers “to enact legislation stopping the murder of unborn children” and speaks of “our final goal of total constitutional rights for the unborn child.”

Pretty unequivocal. More equivocal was GOP primary voters’ response on Proposition 7, which said, “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.”

Thirty-two percent of GOP voters said no, they don’t believe abortion should be abolished in Texas. Only 50.4 percent of Travis County GOP primary voters said abortion should be abolished in Texas.

Austin: Even our Republicans are different.

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The Democrats had 12 propositions on their March 6 ballot. The lowest performing (91.8 percent yes) asked, “Should everyone in Texas have the right to affordable and accessible housing and modern utilities, including high-speed internet, free from any form of discrimination.” That means 85,177 Democratic primary voters didn’t think that’s a good idea. I wonder which part they didn’t like.

Final note: Prior to the primary, I told you I thought it odd that local Democratic state District Court candidate Greg Hitt prominently displayed the word “Progressive” on his yard signs. I was unclear what that meant in a race for a civil court judgeship.

And I wondered why somebody in Northwest Hills had a Hitt sign in the front yard but had obscured the word “Progressive.” Turns out it was somebody who believes the word is inappropriate in judicial elections and ineffective on a yard sign.

I’m still not really sure what “Progressive” says about civil court bench candidate. Maybe it means Flo will vote for you.

FYI, progressive Hitt ran a distant third in a three-candidate primary that progressed Aurora Martinez Jones and Maya Guerra Gamble to the May 22 runoff.