House Districts 47 and 48: Suburbs Flex Muscle
Anti-Obama sentiment motivated Republican voters
As usual with Travis County elections, these two races came down to urban vs. suburban/rural, with Reps. Valinda Bolton and Donna Howard's boxes hugging close to the city, with the exception of one Bolton precinct.
The difference is that the conservative westerners this time were clearly more motivated, probably due to shifting political winds at the national level rather than any real analysis of Bolton's and Howard's job performances at the state level. As the map shows, of the Top 25 vote-producing precincts in the county this year (darkened), all but eight of them were in these two districts. Contrast that with the 2008 Obamamania election, when 12 of the top vote-getters were in more eastern precincts, including three in the University of Texas area.
The District 48 race was not settled until Monday evening – maybe. After Election Day – which had incumbent Democrat Howard 15 votes ahead of Republican Dan Neil – Travis County still had to determine the eligibility of provisional ballots and late-arriving mail-in ballots. Once the 5pm Monday deadline passed, 58 votes were added to the count, but the lead did not change hands – Howard finally won by 16 votes. At press time, Neil had not announced whether he would request a recount.
Turnout was considerably higher in districts 47 and 48 than countywide – 46.5% and 48.7%, respectively, compared to the countywide 39.9%. And the turnout in Republican boxes was higher than it was in Dem boxes, especially in District 47: Of the 44 District 47 boxes with at least 1,000 registered voters, Bolton won 20, while Republican opponent Paul Workman won 19, and five were effectively even, within 2%. But looking at the turnout: 10 of Bolton's boxes were the only ones in the district where turnout was less than 40%. On the other hand, of the 10 boxes where turnout was 54% or more, Bolton won only one, while Workman won eight.
Five of those alone – 306, 308, 314, 320, and 346 (Lakeway, Spicewood, and the Barton Creek PUD) – produced a 2,558-vote margin. Workman's two best precincts – 346 in Lakeway and 314 encompassing the Barton Creek PUD – produced a massive 1,700-vote margin by themselves, by turning out at 60%, while Bolton's best precincts – 352 and 463, South Central along William Cannon Boulevard – turned out at 35% and 39%.
Countywide, looking at straight-party voting as a barometer, the pattern seemed to repeat. Overall, Travis is still a pretty blue county. But the 27 highest-turnout boxes – 55% or more – tilted slightly to the GOP: 13-10, with four virtually split. In contrast, of the 98 boxes with turnout under 40%, 91 went Democratic.
Also worth noting: Seven precincts that went for Workman were pro-Obama boxes two years ago. While it's true that six of those boxes did go for Bolton's 2008 challenger Donna Keel, the presidential wave still brought in enough votes to put Bolton over the top. This time, she had no coattails to ride, and in fact likely suffered from Obama backlash.