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East Texans' voter turnout tops state

By Richard Yeakley
Aug. 1, 2012 at 10 p.m.

East Texans apparently love to exercise their right to vote.

More than 16 percent of registered voters in Harrison, Upshur and Rusk counties voted Tuesday in the Republican Party primary runoff.

That turnout trounced the statewide average of 8.5 percent of registered voters participating in Tuesday's balloting.

Even Gregg County, which had a smaller percentage of voter turnout than other East Texas counties, scored two percentage points higher than the national total with 10.2 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.

Harrison County reported 16.2 percent of registered voters casting a ballot, likely due to the highly contested race for 71st State District judge, in which challenger Brad Morin unseated Judge William Hughey by almost 700 votes.

Keith Rothra, the chairman of the Gregg County Republican Party, said it was not surprising that the state representative race in Rusk County and the judicial race in Harrison County led to a large turnout.

Fewer East Texas Democrats showed up to vote than elsewhere in the state. No East Texas counties matched the 1.8 percent of registered voters who cast ballots statewide in the Democratic runoff between Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough for the Democratic nomination for Kay Bailey Hutchison's vacated Senate seat.

Sadler, a Rusk County native, easily his runoff, and East Texans supported the him in his nomination more than other areas of the state.

Bryce Bagby, Gregg County Democratic Party chairman, said Sadler's connection to East Texas and experience gave him an advantage in the area.

Sixty-three percent of voters in the statewide runoff supported Sadler, but more than 73 percent of Gregg and Upshur counties' Democrats voted for Sadler; just less than 87 percent of runoff votes in Harrison County went to Sadler and in his home county of Rusk, Sadler earned 92.5 percent of the votes.

The Senate race also proved a galvanizing runoff for Republicans in East Texas. Many Longview voters said the race between tea party backed Ted Cruz and establishment candidate David Dewhurst was the reason they voted Tuesday.

Cruz, who took the Republican nomination with 56 percent support across the state, did not convince all East Texans he was the best candidate to challenge Sadler for a Senate seat in Washington.

Harrison and Rusk counties supported Dewhurst, and early voters in Upshur and Gregg counties strongly favored him, as well.

"There are a lot of traditional Republicans in East Texas who have supported Dewhurst for a very long time," Rothra said.

Rothra believes the push of the tea party and the negativity of Dewhurst's campaign were the two factors that allowed Cruz to gain the support he did in East Texas.

Gregg, Harrison, Rusk and Upshur counties stood on par with state totals in the Texas Railroad Commission race between Warren Chisum and Christi Craddick, supporting Craddick's election by about 14 percentage points.

Craddick gained 60 percent of the vote across the state over Chisum.

However, in the race for railroad commissioner with an unexpired term, Rusk and Harrison counties supported challenger Greg Parker to unseat Barry Smitherman.

Although Smitherman won the statewide race, about 55 percent of voters supported Parker in Harrison County, and 52 percent of Rusk County voters.

The most concentrated statement by East Texans against the rest of the state came in the Supreme Court Place 4 race, which ended in an upset.

Upshur, Harrison and Gregg counties supported incumbent Justice David Medina, who was defeated by challenger John Devine.

Rusk County voters supported Devine by 10 percentage points over Medina, a number that matched state Republicans' total support.

Rothra credits Medina's success in East Texas to a few loyal supporters who campaigned and "poured lots of time and money" into the Medina campaign in the area.



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