Republican enthusiasm had Dallas County conservatives feeling optimistic heading into Tuesday’s elections. In contrast to the voter apathy of 2006 and 2008, GOP activists and candidates believed that the anti-Obama backlash sweeping the country this cycle would propel them to victory. In the high-profile District Attorney’s race, Republican Danny Clancy led in early returns and seemed the likely winner. This morning, voters awoke to the news that incumbent Democrat District Attorney Craig Watkins has won by a margin of 5,000 votes, or 1%. Even worse, Republicans lost control of the Commissioner’s Court with the defeat of Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Mayfield, a four-term incumbent.
Every Republican judicial candidate, including two Republican judges who had been appointed by Governor Perry, also lost. What is going on in Dallas? Since the Democrat sweep of 2006, the Dallas Country Republican Party has been on the ropes. Voter turnout this time was slightly up to 37% from 34% in ’06, but it was the same as 2002, when Republicans won every race. The upswing in Democrats voting straight-party ticket continued, with 53% for Democrats compared to 46% for GOP voters. In the heyday for Dallas Republicans of 2002, when even Governor Perry won in Dallas, straight-party voting was roughly equal (50/50) for Democrats and Republicans. Reports of record early voting turnout were circulating this time around, but in actuality the ’06 early voting numbers were higher by 15,000 votes. The only good news for Dallas Republicans is that four incumbent Democrat State Representatives went down in defeat: in District 101 Cindy Burkett beat Robert Miklos; in District 102 Stefani Carter defeated Carol Kent; party switcher Kirk England was beaten by Rodney Anderson in District 106; and incumbent Allen Vaught lost to Kenneth Sheets in District 107.
The trending demographics in Dallas County continue to favor the Democrats. The only countywide Republican candidate to get over 50% this time around was Comptroller Susan Combs, who received 78% of the vote. Many judicial candidates had no GOP opponent. As usual, there are several reports of voter fraud from GOP volunteer poll watchers. In 2008, Democrat straight-party voting was at an all-time high of 60%, so Dallas Republicans will have their work cut out for them in 2012.