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Primary Election 2018: It's not over yet for Denton County voters

Some Denton County Republicans who won their party’s nomination Tuesday may be watching the rearview mirror on the way to Election Day in November.

First, the increase in Democratic voters surged higher in some parts of Denton County than the overall increase statewide. In addition, several races aren't settled, keeping the campaign going for two more months. Four area Republican races and one Democratic race should be decided in primary runoffs on May 22.

In races for nominations to district clerk, Denton County commissioner and justice of the peace, Republicans split widely. Similarly, no clear Democratic Party winner emerged in a three-way race for Texas House District 64, sending those candidates to a runoff, too.   

Voter turnout

Voter turnout in Texas elections is notoriously poor. However, Denton County's voter turnout increased several percentage points compared to the 2014 midterms. A total of 16.5 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots, up from 11.9 percent in 2014. 

While both parties saw higher numbers of voters, the increase in overall turnout was driven primarily by Democrats. 

As has been the case in most counties statewide, the Democratic Party turnout in Denton County had no place to go but up. Not even 2 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots in the Democrats' 2014 primary. This year, that increased to 5.76 percent.

By contrast, 10.75 percent of Denton County’s registered voters cast a GOP ballot, compared to 10.05 percent in 2014. Republicans may have increased their raw numbers, but they haven't increased their market share, and that could spell trouble  for some candidates in the fall.

For example, Keri Ann Caruthers secured the Democratic nomination for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 with 4,410 votes. The precinct covers most of Denton and the Lake Cities. 

She will face incumbent Joe Holland in November; Holland won the GOP nomination with 4,010 votes over challenger Danny Fletcher.

Heading into November, Holland will likely depend on party loyalty to win back some of Fletcher’s 3,200 supporters. Meanwhile, Caruthers will likely court voters willing to cross party lines.

Democratic primary runoff

Denton County Democrats apparently couldn’t give up on Matt Farmer, a local musician, even though Farmer withdrew early in the primary. He was one of three hopefuls for the Texas House District 64 seat currently held by Lynn Stucky, R-Denton.

Farmer snared nearly 20 percent of the vote from both early and election day voters in the Democratic primary. That forced the two men still in the race, Mat Pruneda and Andrew Morris, to the runoff.

They will be on the Denton County ballot along with the runoff for Texas governor.

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Andrew White, a Houston businessman, will square off for the party’s nomination for governor.

Republican primary runoff

Although there are no statewide races in runoffs, Republicans in Denton County will be called back to the polls May 22 to settle four races. The district clerk runoff between Mark Yarbrough and David Trantham will be on all the GOP ballots in the county. The winner faces Democrat Yesse Rodriguez in the fall.

On the county’s west side, Republican voters will decide between Jim Carter and Dianne Edmondson for Denton County Commissioner Precinct 4. The winner faces Democrat Bryan Webb in November. Voters will also decide between Harris Hughey and Don Cartwright for Justice of the Peace Precinct 4. That winner will face Democrat Michael Callaway.

On the county’s south side, Republican voters will decide between James Kerbow and William Lawrence for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3. The winner will face Democrat Marianne Poer Vander Stoep, who, like Caruthers, earned more votes as an unopposed candidate in the Democratic primary than the top vote-getter in the Republican primary.

Early voting for the party primary runoffs will begin May 14. The deadline to register is April 23, but Texas election law does not allow voters who cast Democratic primary ballots to cross over to vote in the Republican runoff, and vice versa.

Other election notes

Denton resident Roman McAllen won the Democratic Party nomination for Texas railroad commissioner after sweeping up several major newspaper endorsements during the primary campaign. The misnamed Texas Railroad Commission is the primary regulator of the oil and gas industry in the state.

McAllen will face incumbent Christi Craddick in the fall. By day, McAllen is the historic preservation officer for the city of Denton. Born and raised in Houston, he holds degrees in architecture and law.

The race between Democratic hopefuls Linsey Fagan and Will Fisher came down to the wire Tuesday night, with Fagan securing nearly 53 percent of the vote and winning the nomination for U.S. Congress District 26. She faces incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, in November.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.