Early voting interest high in state, local primaries
From Staff and Wire Reports
Feb. 29, 2008 - When Democrat Dan Dodd ran for Congress in the steadfastly conservative suburbs north of Dallas, he couldn't even persuade the print shop that made his bumper stickers to let him thank them on his Web site.
Yet, somehow, the election mania over the contest between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination has unleashed a tidal wave of blue in one of Texas' reddest counties
More than 24,000 Democrats have voted early in Collin County, home to the prosperous bedroom communities of Plano and Frisco and a portion of Richardson. That's more than eight times higher than the last presidential election and a whopping 26 times higher than 2000.
It's a record-smashing phenomenon mirrored across the state as excitement builds for the Tuesday contest that could reinvigorate or crush Clinton's lagging campaign.
In-person turnout in the Democratic primary had already surpassed the early voting record set in 2002 by Tuesday. As of Wednesday, 584,994 Texans in the state's 15 most populous counties had voted Democratic. Early voting ends Friday.
Democratic early voting turnout was six times higher than 2004 in Dallas County and the Republican strongholds of Harris and Tarrant counties. It was about four times higher in Bexar County.
State and local officials expect a huge turnout on Tuesday as well, as Texans relish the rare opportunity to play a key role in nominating a president.
Early voting in the both the Democratic and GOP primaries in Hopkins County has mirrored the experience of much of the state.
The early voting period in the party primaries closes at the end of business today, and the total in the Democratic Party primary should easily eclipse 1,000 and the Republican Party vote could readily reach 600 or more.
At the close of voting on Thursday, 943 ballots had been cast in the early voting period in the Democratic Party primary, and another 523 by Republicans.
At the same point in the last presidential year primary four years ago, only about 600 total early votes had been cast in the two party elections combined.
The Democratic Party traditionally brings out more primary voters in the area than the GOP -- just not this many.
But two factors have boosted interest in both party primaries this year.
For the Democrats, the reason is obvious: The heated battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Tuesday's outcome in Texas and Ohio are expected to be the deciding factor in Clinton's campaign.
Former President Bill Clinton said last week he believes that the fate of his wife's presidential hopes rest with victories in the Texas and Ohio primaries Tuesday.
Obama, meanwhile, has defeated Clinton in presidential contests in 11 consecutive states
With Arizona Sen. John McCain having a virtual lock on the Republican Party's nomination for president, contested races of the local variety are believed to have fueled interest on the GOP side.
Incumbent Precinct 1 County Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker is challenged in her re-election bid for a fourth term by Will Woods, owner of Will Woods Farm. The Democratic Party ballot only has one candidate for Precinct 1 Commissioner, John Ragan. Precinct 1 encompasses the southwestern quadrant of the county.
The other contested race locally in the Republican Party primary is for Precinct 3 County Commissioner. Ron Reed, a professional firefighter with 33 years of experience, is challenged by Phillip Anderson, owner of Tr-Star Alternator Service.
The winner should face incumbent Democrat Don Patterson in the November general election. Patterson, unopposed in the primary, will be running for a fifth term.