The Ultra-Low-Turnout Primary Election (Almost) Devoid of Drama

Tiny landslides in Travis County and beyond

Susanna Ledesma-Woody, who was winning her race for Travis County Commissioner Precinct 4 at this point, and Matt Worthington, who had clearly lost his race for state representative of District 51, at their joint watch party March 1 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

One of the standard GOP responses to last year's charges of voter suppression was: "Look how many new voters Texas has! Look at how turnout hit record levels in 2020! Nobody's vote is being suppressed." Voter engagement in Tuesday's primary, the first to be held under the Trump-adjacent new "election integrity" rules that were supposed to make it "easy to vote and hard to cheat," will not help them make that case.

Fewer than 3 million of the state's more than 17 million registered voters came out for primaries that featured hot contests on both sides of the ballot, even if the threat posed to Gov. Greg Abbott by his MAGAriffic major challengers Don Huffines and Allen West was always overstated. Fewer than 1 million of those were Democrats, which tells you just how many non-primary voters Beto O'Rourke needs to talk to, when his treks across Texas roll up in their towns, to be competitive in Novem­ber. Well fewer than that will turn out in late May for the run-offs to decide who else will be on the Dems' statewide ticket. Expect a great deal of rumination on all these facts, on which of them translate into lawsuits seeking to overturn the Senate Bill 1 election package, and on how far Beto now needs to tack to the center. The last of these is the least interesting but will get the most coverage from national outlets who are parachuting in and out of the state this week.

Locally, even among the many, many political and election junkies of Travis County, the story was much the same. About 157,000 of Travis' more than 850,000 registered voters showed up, although here the partisan split favored Dems by more than 2-to-1. When turnout is this low, people expect more races to be close, but without good reason; pretty much everybody who turns out has been ID'd and targeted by multiple local campaigns, so the candidates that have their act more together and raise enough money (not necessarily more money, just enough to compete) tend to win in landslides. We saw this last night in every race but one – the dramatic come-from-behind presumptive victory by eternal Travis County Com­missioner Margaret Gómez over Del Valle ISD Trustee Susanna Ledesma-Woody, who has requested a recount. Learn all the details (and election night gossip) on all the races on the pages that follow; we'll be back with some deeper-dive election analysis next week.

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March 2022 Primary, Greg Abbott, Travis County, voter suppression, Susanna Ledesma-Woody, Beto O'Rourke, Margaret Gomez

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