By Kathi Bliss
In a shutout that many attribute to negative campaigning and political waters muddied by public distaste for Caldwell County Judge Tom Bonn, the Caldwell County Democratic Party swept local races on Tuesday night, earning victory in every race contested on the Election Day ballot.
Possible backlash became evident in the days leading up to the election, when Caldwell County voters received a “voter information packet” from the Caldwell County Republican Party. While the packet contained a sample ballot and campaign materials for several Republican candidates, it also included a cover letter slamming several Democratic Party candidates – a move which many voters said they found to be distasteful, dirty politics. By Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning, social media users had deemed the sweep “The Bonn Effect,” suggesting the local election results had more to do with punishing the embattled County Judge than it did with the candidates themselves.
Riding on the heels of the hotly-contested Presidential election, voter turnout in Caldwell County shattered previous records, with a whopping 53.52 percent voter turnout (11,154 votes), figures rivaled only by the historic 2008 general election, when 11,841 Caldwell County residents cast ballots. Statewide voter turnout hovered around 58 percent.
Likely the biggest race on the local ballot, and clearly the most important for Caldwell County voters, was Sheriff Daniel C. Law’s bid for a fourth term in office. Law faced a challenge from Republican Ray Chandler, and rose to the challenge.
Early voting totals showed Law with a lead nearing 900 votes, a margin that was increased through the night as returns were delivered. By the end of the evening, Law enjoyed a comfortable 14-point margin, drawing 6,243 votes (57 percent) to Chandler’s 4,710 (43 percent).
Law’s campaign weathered various storms, including allegations tied to a long-settled lawsuit filed by his late grandmother, and potentially criminal charges brought to the attention of the Office of the Attorney General by Bonn.
Seated Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector Debra French is perhaps the candidate who found herself most impacted by the far-reaching influence of Republican ties.
French was appointed as Tax Assessor-Collector in early 2012, in a move that will not be soon forgotten by Democrat voters, as her appointment effectively ousted Interim Tax Assessor-Collector Joy Morris-Pardo, who was then a candidate on the Primary Election Ballot. Through a series of events outside French’s control, Morris-Pardo was forced out of the race, leaving French to battle Democratic Party Candidate Darla Law.
Though French enjoyed a lead through early returns, Law picked up steam via Election Day paper ballots, and eventually emerged victorious, winning 5,459 votes (50.45 percent) of the vote, over French’s 5,361 (49.55 percent).
Precinct 3 Caldwell County Commissioner Ernesto “Neto” Madrigal held off a challenge from Republican Kathy Haigler, as he earned 53.74 percent of the vote (1,184) to Haigler’s 1,019 (46.26 percent).
While much of Haigler’s campaign focused on the idea of “good government,” some voters said she lost steam by pointing out minor violations regarding Madrigal’s campaign signs, and by slamming his “availability” by pointing out her opponent works at a local retail store.
Madrigal responded to the claims of “ethics violations” by updating his signs to comply with election laws, and filing overlooked campaign finance reports, in accordance with Ethics Commission edicts.
In Caldwell County Precinct One, no candidate was able to stand on record, as the seat was slated to be vacated on Jan. 1, 2013 by seated Commissioner John Cyrier.
Republican nominee Todd Smith edged a victory in a contentious and controversial Primary and runoff race, but ultimately fell to Democrat Alfredo Munoz on Election Night.
Springboarding off his reputation as a fair and conscientious member of the Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees, Munoz earned 1,602 votes (51.66 percent) to defeat local businessman Smith, who drew 1,271 supporters (48.34 percent) to the polls.
Longtime Democrat Constable Victor “Smitty” Terrell also handily earned re-election, earning 64.31 percent of the vote (1,966) over political newcomer, Republican Richard Polfus, who garnered 1,091 votes (46.26 percent).
In the race for State Senate District 21, incumbent Democrat Judith Zaffrini trounced local Republican challenger Grant Rostig, earning 129,681 votes to Rostig’s 55,933. Libertarian candidate Joseph Morse picked up 6,128 votes.
US Representative Blake Farenthold (R) also won an easy re-election over Rose Meza Harrison, earning 120,490 votes. As a result of last year’s widely publicized redistricting by the Texas Legislature, Farenthold will represent much of Caldwell County, with the exception of the portions of the City of Lockhart and the Maxwell area that are included in the new Congressional District 35.
In District 35, longtime incumbent Lloyd Doggett (D) handily won re-election with 105,260 votes over San Marcos’ former mayor Susan Narvaiz (R). Narvaiz picked up 52,686 votes.
Caldwell County’s new elected officials are expected to take their oath of office on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2012.
Total ballots 11,154 (Updated, Unofficial Results – NOT CANVASSED – All votes tallied)
Republican Party 2,154
Democratic Party 2,459
Caldwell County Sheriff
Ray Chandler 4,710
Daniel Law 6,243
Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector
Debra French 5,361
Darla Law 5,459
Caldwell County Commissioner Pct. 1
Todd Smith 1,499
Alfredo Munoz 1,602
Caldwell County Commissioner, Pct. 3
Kathy Haigler 1,019
Neto Madrigal 1,184
Caldwell County Constable, Pct. 1
Richard Polfus 1,091
Victor “Smitty” Terrell 1,966
Caldwell County Constable, Pct. 2
Tim Adams 1,440
Richard Callihan 1,622
Caldwell County Constable, Pct. 3
Margarito Zapata “Junior” 1,499
Caldwell County Constable, Pct. 4
Art Villarreal 1,884