Democratic participation rising as early voting closes for Tuesday’s primaries

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As early voting ended on Friday, the winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries won’t be decided until Tuesday night, but turnout shows Democratic participation rising.

Tarrant County, one of the 15 most populous counties the Texas Secretary of State’s office tracks in early voting and election day voting, shows that Democratic voting in Tarrant County was 71.2 percent higher this year compared to 2014, the last midterm primary election.

This year, Tarrant County voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary cast 38,731 in-person and mail-in votes, or 3.54 percent of the electorate.

During early voting for the 2014 primaries, 22,621 in-person and mail-in votes, accounting for 2.33 percent.

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The surge in Democratic voting follows a statewide trend that has Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, worried, according to an email posted on social media.

Political observers have attributed the spike as reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency and contentious issues such as immigration and border wall funding.

Nevertheless, this year’s turnout lags 2016 primary turnout, which was a presidential election year. Voters in both parties had multiple choices for president, particularly Republicans that year.

In 2016, Tarrant County Democrats cast 44,308 early and mail-in votes, 4.35 percent of the electorate.

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Statewide, Democrats outpaced Republicans in-person and mail-in early voting in Harris, Dallas, Bexar and Travis counties. Tarrant was the only county of the state’s five biggest where Republicans outpaced Democrats in early voting this year.

Tarrant County has long been a Republican stronghold and that continues this election season, according to the Secretary of State’s data. This year, 55,711 voters cast ballots in the Republican primary by voting early in-person and through the mail.

In 2014, Republicans cast 52,719 early votes in-person and by mail. Republican participation in the 2016 surged with 95,088 ballots cast in-person and by mail, accounting for 9.33 percent of the electorate.

Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, who is challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said at a town hall meeting in Roanoke last week that his race would be won or lost in Tarrant County, which has long be a viewed as a microcosm of the state’s political sentiment.

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Although the Democrat primary ballot in Tarrant County offers more choices than usual, it is the Republican races that are the most heated as an ongoing tug-of-war between moderate GOP candidates and right-wing conservatives continues to dominate local politics.

One of the most highly watched races is the rematch between GOP incumbent Charlie Geren and challenger Bo French for state representative of District 99. Geren has been a top lieutenant of outgoing Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

Geren, who has staved off a number of conservative challengers over the years, is locked in a heated rematch with French, a businessman, rancher and investor, who he defeated by 16 percentage points two years ago.

Another highly contested race is for a successor to Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis. Barton’s decided against seeking re-election after photos and sexually-suggestive messages were shared online by an intimate partner in an extramarital affair.

Barton’s departure from the race left a rare open Congressional seat without an incumbent. The district that covers parts of Tarrant and most of Eliis and Navarro counties has drawn 16 candidates, 11 Republicans and five Democrats.

Among the District 6 candidates is Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, who was formerly Barton’s chief of staff.

Wright resigned as tax assessor-collector although he continues to serve until a replacement is chosen. His resignation set off a contest for the tax assessor-collector post. High-profile GOP candidates for that post are former NBC news anchorman Mike Snyder and Trasa Robertson Cobern, a Hurst City Councilwoman and daughter of Duck Dynasty star Uncle Si.

Other GOP candidates for the post are Wendy Burgess and Rick Barnes. Olliephine “Ollie” Anderson is running as a Democrat.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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