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Republicans: Denton “reddest” county in Texas

Republicans: Denton “reddest” county in Texas

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Republicans: Denton “reddest” county in Texas
September 23
00:30 2014

Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer

Within the fast-paced world that is American politics, beneath the layers of red tape, work people like Dianne Edmondson, chair of the Denton County Republican Party. For 12 years, she’s been in the business of doing whatever it takes to get Republicans elected in Denton County. And if they don’t work out, Edmonson said, they’ll be voted out.

“We like to brag that we are the reddest county in the state,” Edmondson said. “I don’t know how you prove that, but we have not one partisan office run by a Democrat.”

Both Republicans and Democrats in Denton County are campaigning for their respective candidates for the upcoming November elections. Edmondson’s claim on Denton’s political climate contrasts with many locals’. Some people believe Denton County could soon shift to blue.

“We have a growing liberal population,” said Billy Poer, political science senior and president of the College Democrats of UNT.  “Out of the four house districts in the county, three of them have a strong chance that they’ll go blue, and an even stronger chance that they’ll go purple. And from the way the county has been going, we’ll probably be blue in two years for the presidential election.”

For the November elections, only six offices from Denton County are opposed by Democrats: the four State Representative seats held by Republicans; U.S. House District 24, challenged by Patrick McGehearty; and the 367th Judicial Court, held by Judge Margaret Barnes and challenged by David Heiman.

County Republicans were not expecting Barnes to be challenged.

“We have been trying to figure this out,” Edmondson said. “Judge Barnes is one of the most-liked judges in our county. She’s never had a grievance filled against her and is extremely well qualified. Nobody has ever run against her in either a primary or a general campaign. I think it’s going to backfire on them.”

The Denton County Republican Party recently moved its headquarters in Corinth to a second-floor office space in Denton on Fort Worth Drive.

Edmondson said it changed locations due to a greater demand for its services and outreach in Denton.

Factors for “redness”

Democrats in Denton say low voter turnout may contribute to the county’s partisanship.

“We don’t have a red county. We don’t have a blue county. We have a nonvoting county,” Phyllis Wolper, chairperson for the Denton County Democratic Party, said.  “These elections are decided by a tiny percentage of people. The Republican Party has been more successful at turning out their registered voters than we have been.”

According to the Denton County Elections Administration’s website, in the 2010 general election there was a 36.31 percent voter turnout in Denton County. Out of 364,442 registered voters, 132,342 ballots were cast. Republicans received 3,394,331 total votes, having no opponents on 23 out of the 46 offices.

Democrats ran fewer candidates than Libertarians, but received more votes with 427,714 total. Voters cast 121,017 votes for Libertarians. Together, Democrats and Libertarians only had 34 candidates on the 2010 ballot.

In 2012, voters in the county were more active, with 245,287 ballots cast out of 391,024 registered voters, increasing participation by 26.42 percent from 2010.

Of the 37 offices on the ballot, including President/Vice President, U.S. Senator and U.S. Congress, only 10 Democrats were represented, while 19 Libertarians ran. A Republican candidate ran for each office, receiving 4,169,561 votes, while there were 508,958 votes for Democrats and 391,293 votes for Libertarians.

“Reddest county in the state?” Philip Paolino, associate professor in the department of political science, wrote in an email. “This would seem to be plausible only if we’re talking about counties with some minimum population (greater than 100,000), because I’m almost certain that there are many more conservative counties.”

Paolino’s prediction is supported by recent analysis from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

The insight from the Baker Institute lists the most liberal to most conservative counties in the state. Denton County is on the list, with nearby Tarrant and Dallas counties being more liberal. It used data from eight University of Texas and Texas Tribune polls to estimate the political ideologies in Texas’ most populated counties.

It concluded that Denton County was 14th (the seventh most conservative) of Texas counties. More conservative counties were Fort Bend, McLennan, Galveston, Montgomery and Lubbock. The most conservative county in Texas, according to the report, is Brazoria County.

Brazoria County, like Denton County, kept all offices Republican in the 2012 election and is expected to do the same this November. There are 17 Republican candidates unopposed in that county.

Demographics and strategies

Wolper said there’s a new outlook for county, and state, Democrats.

“There is a great possibility that this county could see a shift,” she said.  “There’s a growing Hispanic population that is getting more and more politically involved.”

Women have a very poor voting record in Texas, but that is changing rapidly.

“Due to everything from healthcare, education and equal pay, these issues are getting women involved,” she said. “It’s creating more women candidates, which also creates more women voters.”

Republican Texas Senator Jane Nelson recently said more than 1,200 people move to Texas each day.

“Denton County has had a large population boom for the past five or six years that has really put us on the map,” Will Travis, sheriff of Denton County, said.

Wolper, who works in the real estate business, says Denton, the city and county, is known worldwide to be a great place to live with a low cost of living. She said many newcomers are from more liberal states like California.

Recently, through the efforts from the UNT College of Democrats and Denton County Democrats, Senator Wendy Davis visited UNT for a campaign rally urging votes for her in the upcoming gubernatorial election in November.

Poer, who says that most UNT students are Democrats or skew liberal, said 1,500 tickets were given out, and Wolper estimates that hundreds people were in attendance.

College Democrats registered 1,500 students to vote prior to the Davis rally, and Poer said 300 more were registered afterward. Other groups were on-site to register students as well, but those statistics are unavailable.

If more college students voted, some believe it would have an effect on the local elections, but the recurring issue of low voter turnout is no different at UNT. For the first time ever, there will be an early voting location on Oct. 27-31 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Sycamore Hall, set up by Denton County Democrats.

“With the early voting location here on campus, we are going to make a real impact,” Poer said.  “We are going to get thousands of people out here to vote and we are going to change the numbers.”

But Edmondson, who said she was a Democrat in college, says the liberal views of college students are typical, and will change as they get older.

“I think that a lot of times we are young and idealistic and we don’t understand the big picture,” she said.

Sheriff Travis, a Republican who ran unopposed in 2012, said students could have an impact on the local elections.

“All the state representatives have democratic opponents,” he said. “No, they’re not going to win this time, but they’re coming.”

Travis said he expects to have a democratic opponent in 2018.

Wolper said Denton County is more welcoming to Democrats now than in the past.

“In years past, we would go to a parade and receive a very nasty, negative response,” she said. “But now, we go and get positive responses from the crowd.”

Featured Illustration: A graphic showing Democratic and Republican voters in a voting booth. Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul
    Paul July 18, 08:27

    Dalton
    Love your article. in my opinion The Denton county Court should really be Checked into, the Family Law area of the court system is dysfunctional to say the least, admittedly anyone in Family Court is by definition at least Dysfunctional, The 362nd Court for sure Will not Show to be interested in the Best interest of the Children. The Court Will not listen to it’s own court’s Expert witnesses, and really pre determines the ruling seemingly before the Fact’s and presented. The Judge is biess against Fathers and unwilling to keep an open mind. the most un nerving issue I have is He supervises other Jurists in this area..

    Reply to this comment

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