Taking a Dive Into the Travis County Election Numbers
The biggest blueberry ever!
By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Nov. 13, 2020
Travis County can no longer, thankfully, claim to be the blueberry in the Texas tomato soup, since other urban counties have broken Democratic in recent election cycles. (The last holdout, Tarrant, finally joined the squad this year, voting for Joe Biden.) But with turnout of more than 70%, Travis has never been bigger and bluer. Countywide, Democrats won their races by 2-to-1 margins or more, including congressional candidates who ended up losing in their gerrymandered districts anyway. (Julie Oliver, whose TX-25 includes both the bluest and reddest boxes in the county, only won Travis by 23 points.) The few closer races were in western Travis: Ann Howard's victory for commissioners court, and especially Vikki Goodwin's narrow escape (1,300 votes, or 1%) over Justin Berry to keep HD-47 in the Dem column. While there were many, many more mail-in ballots cast than in any previous election, they still made up only a small share of the total; the vast majority of voters, in both blue and red precincts, cast their ballots in early voting, with a few stragglers on Election Day. (Yes, the latter were more favorable to Republicans.) We've broken out some notable trends we saw, including the prospects for December's run-offs, in the maps throughout this section.
Atop the Ballot: Never-Trumpers Slow MJ's Roll
This map shows Senate candidate MJ Hegar's performance relative to Joe Biden/Kamala Harris. Countywide, Hegar trailed the presidential ticket by about 7 points. In the blue precincts, she did better than that (closer than 7 points); in the pink boxes, she did worse; in the white ones, she did about the same.
The color breaks are percentiles: The darker blue and pink are the top and bottom 25% on this measure. So you can see, in solidly Democratic areas such as Northeast Austin, Hegar lost few of Biden's voters; the same is true of the solidly Republican areas of western Travis County, where both Biden and Hegar went down hard. (The boxes won by the president are outlined in Trump Orange; there aren't many of them.) But in the vast red stretch in the middle, we see a bunch of voters who rejected Trump – college-educated suburban women, for example – but were more willing to give John Cornyn another six years.
Prop A: A Progressive Cause, Except Where It Isn't
While there are both progressive and conservative arguments to be made for and against investing in transit, Proposition A and Project Connect were endorsed by a broad range of Democratic leaders and party actors (e.g., Austin Mayor Steve Adler) and opposed by a number of prominent Republican activists and donors. So how did it do compared to the Democratic ticket? Citywide, Prop A finished around 11 points behind District Attorney-elect José Garza and County Judge-elect Andy Brown (whose own results were nearly identical). As with the Biden/Hegar map, the blue boxes are where Prop A ran closer to the Democrats in that precinct; the pink are where it ran farther behind. (The color breaks are percentiles; the darkest red/blue are the top/bottom 25%.) Boxes outlined in yellow are ones where Prop A was defeated – which include a number of the same boxes along the MoPac corridor where Hegar lagged behind Biden. East of I-35 and south of Ben White, Prop A won, but by much narrower margins than did the Democratic candidates. (The exception is along East Riverside.) Most of the hardest-core GOP boxes in the county are outside the city limits, but you can see the blue ones in the west where both Prop A and the Dems went down to defeat in equal measure.
District 10: The Emerging Democratic Majority?
On election night, Council Member Alison Alter noted that if you combine her results with those of third-place finisher Pooja Sethi – both proclaim themselves progressive Democrats – you'd have more than 50%, which bodes well in Alter's run-off with Republican candidate Jennifer Virden. Districtwide, Alter and Sethi combined to just over 52% – as with the Biden/Hegar and Prop A maps, this one shows where the two did better (blue) and worse (pink) than that, with white in the middle. To prevail in the run-off, Alter will have to work to get out voters, especially in the magenta boxes where she needs to at least fight Virden to a draw; several of these, particularly in the northwest, are where Sethi hit her highest numbers.
AISD: Has Caballero Already Won the Run-Off?
Leticia Moreno Caballero came closer to winning outright on Nov. 3 than did any of the other City Council or school board candidates now facing run-offs. Her run-off opponent, Noelita Lugo, almost immediately got the backing of runner-up Jared Breckenridge; this map compares their combined results to Caballero's in each precinct. The darkest blue (Caballero) and pink (Lugo/Breckenridge) are where each cleared 50%, with the lighter colored boxes leaning each way and the white ones the most evenly split. As you can see, Caballero won most of Southeast Austin outright, while Lugo (both on her own and with Breckenridge) showed strength in Central and Northeast Austin. Neither of those areas has another run-off to help push turnout in December; those parts of AISD within trustee District 5, or within Council districts 6 and 10, are definitely more mixed.
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