Primary runoff elections rarely offer cosmic lessons, not least of all because they offer so little data. Depending on which party you chose and what part of town you live in, your electoral effort ranged from pushing one on-screen “button” to as many as seven.
In November you’ll have more judges alone to place your guesses on.
For Republicans in substantial parts of Bexar County the only choice involved the monumental battle for county chair. It was a race between a newcomer about whom little was known and Cynthia Brehm, who had become a national laughingstock whom just about everybody from the governor on down had asked to resign. The newcomer about whom little was known won by a landslide, much to the disappointment of many Democrats.
The Democratic ballot was topped by the decision about who would face U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November. Since Democrats smell blood in the Trumpian waters, this race offered considerable motivation and may help explain why more than 71,000 voters participated in the Democratic and more than 43,000 in the Republican runoff. We won’t have final totals until after the count of mail-in ballots, which were being accepted if they arrived by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
That doesn’t sound like many votes, considering that Bexar County has more than 1.1 million registered voters. But it’s more than four times as many than the 27,000 total votes cast in the 2016 runoff.
Some observations are justified. One is that the ascendancy of women in political office continues. MJ Hegar, for example, whose only political experience is a good but unsuccessful race for Congress two years ago, won her race against veteran Dallas State Sen. Royce West. Then there’s the Bexar County courthouse.
A few decades ago it was such testosterone-laden bastion that the late sensationalistic afternoon San Antonio News once ran a front-page story on how elected officials clearly tended to hire female staff based on their brassiere size. There was no outcry from the incumbents.
In recent years the atmosphere has changed. Two years ago voters elected nine women as district judges and only four men. (All were Democrat.) We also have had a succession of women district clerks. But the Commissioners Court remained a boys-only club.
In its entire history the Commissioners Court has included only two women: Commissioner Helen Dutmer and County Judge Cyndi Krier. They overlapped for two years in the early 1990s, but the court has been totally male since 2002.
Next January the court could support a women’s caucus. Trish DeBerry should be easily elected to the court’s only safe Republican seat, representing Pct. 3 in the Northeast sector, and Rebeca Clay-Flores likely will represent the safely Democratic Southside Pct. 1.
A Republican runoff for the nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in the district stretching from here to El Paso virtually guarantees that district will send its first woman to Washington. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting Tony Gonzales held a seven-vote margin over Raul Reyes and declared himself the victor despite the fact that all the mail-in votes had not yet been received, much less counted.
The closeness of the race reveals that neither of them have the support necessary to beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. In what is shaping up to be a Democratic year she might well have beaten Hurd. He bested her by less than a half percent two years ago.
Hurd was a skilled and well-established incumbent, while the race between Gonzales and Reyes has been not only close, but also comical. Reyes has tried to wrap himself in President Trump’s aura, going so far as to doctor a photo for his ads to falsely show him standing with the president. Ironically, Gonzales won the endorsement of Hurd, a moderate and one of the few Republicans in Congress to occasionally stand up to Trump. For example, he has been a strong opponent of the border wall.
Then Gonzales also won Trump’s endorsement, and on the eve of the election Trump’s campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter to Reyes over the doctored photo.
To make matters even more merry, Sen. Ted Cruz – who four years ago called Trump a “sniveling coward,” a “pathological liar,” and “utterly amoral,” but whose survival instinct makes him now a devoted Trump acolyte – endorsed Reyes.
Trump appears to have endorsed Gonzales because he was advised Reyes was too conservative to win in what has long been Texas’s only true swing district. Trump doesn’t want to extend an embarrassing endorsement losing streak. And Cruz appears to have endorsed Reyes because Reyes is more Trumpian on a number of issues, including the border wall.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. Jones will be the first Democrat from District 23 since Ciro Rodriguez. Which brings us to another takeaway from Tuesday’s vote: the fall of two political families.
Ciro himself was earlier demoted from congressman, having lost his reelection bid in 2010, to justice of the peace. Now two of his family members are out of a job. The above-mentioned Clay-Flores defeated four-term incumbent Chico Rodriguez, Ciro’s younger brother. Meanwhile, State Rep. Roland Gutierrez defeated Ciro’s daughter, Xochil Peña Rodriguez, for the Democratic nomination for the state Senate.
The other political family to lose Tuesday was the Rickhoffs. Former probate judge Tom Rickhoff lost the nomination for county commissioner to the above-mentioned DeBerry. Based on the power of the family name his brother, former county clerk Gerry Rickhoff, earlier won the Republican nomination for sheriff despite the fact that he has no background in law enforcement. But he, too, is almost certain to lose in November.
One more observation from the results, also involving Clay-Flores: She will join local officials of color with elite-university backgrounds. It began slowly 45 years ago when Henry Cisneros returned home with degrees that included a master’s from Harvard. More recently we’ve seen the likes of the Castro twins with twin degrees from Stanford and Harvard Law, Rey Saldaña with three Stanford degrees, and Ana Sandoval with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and Harvard. Clay-Flores has a bachelor’s from Princeton and a master’s from Harvard. And I trust I’m missing some.
I appreciate having at least some of my representatives being better educated than I am.