Ballots at the ready

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Voters head to polls Tuesday for party primaries

After weeks of being inundated with debates, handshakes and campaign literature, voters will go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in dozens of Republican and Democratic primary elections.

The local ballot includes races ranging from party nominees for U.S. senator and Texas governor to 11 contested Denton County races.

Seven Republican incumbents in Denton County are facing challengers from within their own party in the primary election this year, setting up what some see as a busier-than-usual primary season. Six Democrats filed for office but none is facing a primary challenger.

“It’s very busy,” said Denton County Republican Party Chairwoman Dianne Edmondson. “It’s been interesting because so many of our candidates are doing a good job.”

Among the most hotly contested local elections include three-person races for county judge and district attorney, in which the incumbents are facing well-funded challengers, and an open Precinct 5 justice of the peace race that has drawn six candidates.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday on election day. Voters must cast their ballots in their precinct voting location and will need a photo ID.

Turnout for early voting was higher than usual for a primary election, and officials say turnout could be equally high on election day. By end of the day Thursday, more than 18,000 ballots had been cast in early voting, which ended Friday. Officials said Tuesday that for the first week of early voting, the number of ballots cast was up 32 percent for Republicans and well over 100 percent for Democrats compared to 2012’s figures.

In 2012, a presidential election year, more than 41,000 ballots were cast in Denton County in the primary elections — including early and election-day votes, according to Frank Phillips, county election administrator.

Nearly 63 percent of Denton County’s registered voters cast ballots in November 2012, but primary election turnout is usually not that high, Phillips said.

Denton County Democratic Party Chairwoman Phyllis Wolper said voters are interested in the election even if their local races are uncontested. A surge of interest for the gubernatorial candidate and Senate races may also be driving interest among Democrats, she said.

“It’s partly the top of the ballot,” Wolper said, “but we also have some very, very active candidates ourselves and they know that it’s important to turn out the vote even when it’s uncontested.”

Here’s a rundown of the local contested races:

County judge — Incumbent County Judge Mary Horn, 68, is facing Corinth Mayor Paul Ruggiere, 48, and Highland Village attorney Sherman Swartz, 55. No Democrat filed for the position.

District attorney — Incumbent District Attorney Paul Johnson is being challenged by Lantana attorney Karen Alexander, 37, and Denton attorney Hank Paine, 61. No Democrat filed.

Texas House District 64 — Incumbent state Rep. Myra Crownover, 66, is being challenged by Denton insurance agent Read King, 44. The winner will face Democrat Emy Lyons, 45, a nurse, in November.

Congressional District 26 — Incumbent U.S. Rep Michael Burgess is facing two challengers: Joel A. Krause, 55, a Lewisville businessman, and Divenchy Watrous, 26, who is self-employed. No Democrats filed.

County clerk — Two employees in the county clerk’s office are vying to fill the seat being vacated by Cynthia Mitchell, who is running instead for Precinct 5 justice of the peace. Chief deputy clerk D’Lynne Shelton, 39, is squaring off against county criminal clerk Juli A. Luke, 44. No Democrats filed.

County Criminal Court No. 3 — Incumbent Judge David Garcia, 55, is being challenged by Northlake attorney George Mitcham, 45. No Democrats filed.

County Criminal Court No. 5 — Two candidates are seeking the bench being vacated by Judge Richard Podgorski. AttorneyVictor “Vic” Rivera, 42, is facing Coby Waddill, 43, also an attorney. No Democrats filed.

Precinct 4 justice of the peace — Incumbent J.W. Hand, 77, is facing three challengers: Flower Mound attorney Al Filidoro, 61; attorney Harris Hughey, 54; and entertainment booking manager Scott Smith, 59. No Democrats filed.

Precinct 5 justice of the peace — Six people are vying to replace the retiring Mike Bateman: Cynthia Mitchell, 41; Denton businessman Michael Brucia, 54; Sanger businessman Paul Moore, 51; district attorney’s investigator Michael Oglesby, 54; Sanger municipal judge and manufacturing manager Danny Spindle, 57; and Denton police property crimes detective Mike Sweet, 54. No Democrat filed.

Precinct 6 justice of the peace — Two people are seeking the position being vacated by Patty Larson, who is not seeking re-election. They are attorney Gary W. Blanscet, 63, of Carrollton, and Tom Washington, 57, an accountant, also from Carrollton. No Democrats filed.

Precinct 1 constable — Incumbent Jesse Flores, 44, is facing challenger Johnny W. Hammons, 50, a retired deputy constable. No Democrat filed.

DIANNA HUNT can be reached at 940-566-6884 and on Twitter at @DiannaHunt.


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