Primary Numbers Crunched Here
A breakdown of the voting in the March 12 primary election
More than 67,000 Travis County voters (12.5% of the registered voters) turned out on March 12 to make their choices in the primaries -- with Democrats outpacing Republicans by more than two to one. Just like the old days -- although the fireworks at the top of the Democratic ticket, rather than a return to Austin's liberal roots, deserve the credit. (Based on recent countywide races, the D-R split in Travis County is more like 55-45.)
In past years, we've divided Austin and Travis County into six sectors, using a scheme of our own devise. Redistricting left our system a shambles, but the Lege did us a favor by dividing the county into six Texas House districts along more or less the same lines -- central (D. 49, Naishtat), east/northeast (D. 46, Dukes), north (the new D. 50), northwest (D. 48, Kitchen), south/southeast (D. 51, formerly Maxey), and southwest (D. 47, Keel). So in the following analysis, we've used the House district lines.
The combined turnout percentages were surprisingly close from district to district, despite the vast differences between the parties in each district (a fact of uncertain significance). However, the districts are not really of equal size, and when you look at each district's share of the total vote, it tracks the usual turnout pattern -- northwest and southwest are heaviest, followed closely by the center; the eastern boxes are lowest; and the north is in the middle. As usual, the county's Democrats were more spread out and its Republicans more heavily concentrated in the north and west, as measured by each district's percentage of the total vote in each primary.
But the hot races on each side of the ballot did energize at least a few voters who might otherwise have stayed home. Most notably, the largely African-American east/northeast (D. 46) turned out at above the countywide average (which it seldom does) and had the highest Democratic turnout of any district. This is probably thanks to native son Ron Kirk's get-out-the-vote efforts on the Eastside. While the two districts with open House seats saw what might be higher-than-normal turnout in the GOP (D. 50) and Democratic (D. 51) primaries, respectively, both districts ended up trailing the pack in overall turnout.
Top of the Ticket
Is it noteworthy that Dan Morales did the least well in the districts with the largest Hispanic populations? His strength vs. late-model, low-mileage Democrat Tony Sanchez in the left-leaning city center (D. 49) makes more sense, despite Morales' own shortfalls from the progressive ideal. On the Senate side, the overwhelming support for Ron Kirk -- who carried Austin by more than twice his statewide average -- may, again, be due to his having grown up here, or may just reflect Austin's primacy in the "Texas Democratic establishment," which more or less solidly backed Kirk. Even in majority-Hispanic D. 51, the only place where Victor Morales outperformed his statewide average, he was unable to top Kirk. (In case you're curious, Ken Bentsen -- who did better in the whiter precincts -- didn't win a box anywhere.)
Since all three winners were challenged by candidates who claimed to be more progressive, we were surprised to see that the losers didn't do better in the more left-ish areas of their precincts. As promised, Jeff Heckler did do better in the city center than in the periphery, but that just means his margin of defeat in the core was closer to 2-1 than 3-1. Ira Yates actually did better in the southwest -- where, of course, he lives -- than in the somewhat less conservative northern and northwestern areas of that precinct. But Heckler's (and to a degree Yates') strategy of riding center-city voting strength to victory was nonetheless a resounding failure.
Lulu Flores led the pack by 15 percentage points, and she led in almost every box in the district, but she took more than 50% of the vote in only one box. So if Eddie Rodriguez aims to score an "upset" of sorts, where does he need to go looking for votes? Apparently, at Marcos De Leon's door, which as it happens is not that far from Rodriguez's own. (Both live in the Holly Street area that's De Leon's El Concilio stronghold.) In the boxes where Flores was strongest (where she got more than her district-wide 38.3%), Rodriguez did better than average and Marcos De Leon was a distant third. In Flores' weaker boxes, De Leon outpolled Rodriguez.
Likewise, in the boxes that went for Ron Kirk (the more "conservative" U.S. Senate candidate), Flores and Rodriguez left the others in their dust, but in the Victor Morales boxes De Leon again outpaced Rodriguez. Those Morales boxes are concentrated in the more central (that is, the Eastside) parts of D. 51, and Rodriguez is already highlighting on the campaign trail his commitment to addressing issues faced by him and his Eastside neighbors.