County elections draw large crowds; Mathis ISD bond passes

A steady stream of residents made it out to vote early Tuesday morning at the Portland Community Center.

SINTON – The unofficial numbers are in for the general election in San Patricio County which brought some big wins for Mathis and Taft.

When the early voting numbers came in on Tuesday, 51.79 percent of the 921 early voters were against the Mathis Independent School District bond proposal of $13.5 million to help improve the current high school campus. 

But as the final numbers rolled in, voters on the item known as Mathis ISD Proposition A flipped the tables and ended the night with 52.62 percent for the bond and 47.38 percent against.

Taft’s Proposition A, which makes it legal for restaurants to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks, seemed to resonate with residents as it started with early voting numbers at 61.82 percent and ended the night with 67.14 percent of voters in favor of the proposition.

The Taft City Council Alderperson, Ward 1 seat went to Leonard Vasquez, who had 58.59 percent of the early vote and ended with 58.48 percent against Rolando “Ronnie” Rodriguez, who ended with 41.52 percent.

In the much talked about U.S. Senate race, Democrat challenger Robert “Beto” O’Rourke only took 37.15 percent of the vote to incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s 62.27 percent in San Patricio County.

Perhaps it was the excitement from the Senate race between Cruz and O’Rourke which caused early voting numbers to skyrocket, not only in San Pat, but  all across Texas.

San Patricio County had 23 percent (9,889) of voters turning up at the polls for early voting compared to the 2016 presidential election which was at 54 percent (12,825). The largest of those numbers came from Portland, which had 3,667 residents cast their vote.

While the Senate race was drawing massive numbers to the polls, at the beginning of the year it seemed like business as usual for the county.

“In the beginning we were not planning on a big election,” San Patricio County Election Administrator Pamela Hill said on Monday. “We had no local races contested and the federal and state candidates were not really campaigning. If you notice, we didn’t have many signs.

“So when we started preparing we didn’t think anyone was going to come out. There’s nothing local, from the governor even – you’re just not hearing anything.

“So we thought it was going to be nothing.

“Then when Cruz and Beto started up, we saw it coming. And it’s all across Texas.

“It’s crazy.”

Hill also said that Aransas County posted 34 percent of residents voted early, which is unusually high. She added that during some constitutional amendment elections the county would see, maybe, 2 percent voter turnout.

She said it’s nice to see people getting interested and taking the time actually to get out and vote.

On Monday, the San Patricio County Elections Administration Office was buzzing with energy and excitement as Hill and her staff were gearing up for the big election.

“We are getting all the election equipment and everything out to the polling places and making sure they’re set up and ready to go at 6:30 in the morning (Tuesday),” Hill said. “So at 7 they’re ready. That’s our main goal today. To make sure that we’re ready at 6:30 in the morning.”

She said that with her staff of just four people they manage to set up the voting polls throughout the large county.

“I think my staff does a really good job here and I think that our county should be very pleased with the job they do,” Hill added.

“We expect tomorrow to double this. All in one day. We are staffed at every polling place to expect a huge turnout. And I think it’s all the way across Texas.

“We are getting emails from Secretary of State of Texas Rolando Pablos and they’re saying, ‘Be prepared.’

“It’s because of the Senate race. And that’s what’s bringing people out.”

So is Hill just as excited about the elections as the rest of the county voters?

“I was the first one to vote in the county,” she said laughing. “We were the first ones open so I was the first one. I said, ‘I’m never first, so I’m going to be first this time.’

“This is very exciting.”