Some Denton County Republicans likely got the memo about the Democratic wave in the Texas primaries.
On the last day of early voting, a surge of 5,700 GOP faithful cast ballots, pushing the party’s primary ballot count to nearly 28,000. The surge showed the Republican Party still holds sway in Denton County.
But the early voting turnout also showed the Democratic Party may have gained a foothold in Texas’ ninth-most populous county. Just over 15,000 Democrats voted early this primary season compared to only about 4,000 in 2014.
Overall, primary voter turnout climbed from about 26,000 in 2014, the last mid-term election, to 43,000 in 2018. However, more than 11,000 of those 17,000 new ballots were cast by Democrats, not Republicans.
Denton County Republicans have lost substantial market share in the past four years. In 2014, 86 percent of the primary’s early vote went to Republicans. This year, the GOP captured 65 percent of the early vote.
Whether Denton County Democrats can parlay that momentum for its local nominees in November remains to be seen. But for now, each party must choose its nominees.
Denton County elections officials are ready for voters who show up Tuesday, said Frank Phillips, Denton County elections administrator. If the pattern for turnout holds, about 60 percent of those who plan on voting have already cast their ballots and the rest will vote Tuesday.
That means about 13 percent of the county's 475,335 registered voters will choose the party nominees for the November election. In 2014, only about 7 percent of registered voters cast their ballots.
To elections officials, however, it doesn't matter how many voters head to the polls Tuesday. The elections office has a new system that prints ballots on demand and quickly enough that it doesn't hold up the line.
"You walk in and get it printed right there," Phillips said.
The Texas primaries are considered "semi-open." Registered voters may cast a ballot in either primary from year to year. However, voters cannot cross party lines to vote in a runoff.
In other words, should the crowded races for the Republican nomination to Denton County Commissioner Precinct 4 or District Clerk head to a runoff, no one who voted in the Democratic primary could cross over to cast a ballot in that runoff election.
Two legislative races for Republican incumbents hoping to keep their party's nomination have become the ones to watch in Denton County.
Freshman state Rep. Lynn Stucky faces a re-election challenge from the right in Mark Roy, both hoping to represent Texas House District 64.
In addition, state Rep. Pat Fallon, a Republican business owner from Frisco, is challenging state Sen. Craig Estes, who has held the 30th District state Senate seat for 16 years. The wild card in the race is a third candidate, Craig Carter, a businessman from Nacona, a political newcomer who's been knocking on doors throughout the 14-county district.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters can check their precinct by looking up their information on the county elections website, votedenton.com.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.