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Politics

Here's A Look At The Hays County Races On The Ballot This Election

People wearing face coverings leave the Hays County Government Center building, an early voting site in Hays County.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
People leave the Hays County Government Center building, an early voting site in Hays County.

Hays County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. And it’s a changing place: In 2018, the historically conservative county turned blue for the first time in decades. Voters came out in record numbers for Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the U.S. Senate race – although he lost – and elected Democrats for county judge and Texas House District 45. This election, Democrats are hoping to add to those wins.

Here's a look at some of the races Hays County voters are deciding.

Hays County Commissioners Court

In the County Commissioners Court, Republican Commissioner Lon Shell is up against Democrat Lisa Prewitt for Precinct 3, which includes parts of Wimberley and Woodcreek, and most of the southwestern half of the county.  

Prewitt is coming off six years on the San Marcos City Council, and Shell has been in his seat since October 2017. Before that, he was the Hays County’s chief of staff for seven years. 

If Prewitt is elected, the court is going to have a Democratic majority for the first time in more than a decade, according to the Hays County Democratic Party chair. And that could have a significant impact: The court decided 3-2 along party lines in August, for example, to reject a second polling location at Texas State. A Democratic majority on the court would have likely voted in favor of a second location.

Right now, the two Democrats on the court are County Judge Ruben Becerra and Debbie Ingalsbe, who represents Precinct 1.  

Hays County Sheriff

Gary Cutler, the incumbent, has been sheriff since 2010. He’s up against Alex Villalobos, the chief of staff for the Hays County Commissioners Court and a City Council member in Kyle. 

Like in the commissioners race, if Villalobos wins, he'll be overturning more than a decade of Republican rule in the department. Villalobos has expressed support for progressive movements in the county, like cite and release and cite and divert. (Cutler instituted a countywide cite-and-divert policy earlier this year.) Villalobos told the Austin American-Statesman he thinks those two policies need to be used more to keep low-risk offenders out of jail. That's significant for Hays County, which has been a more predominantly conservative county.  

Texas House District 45

On the state level, Rep. Erin Zwiener is up against Carrie Isaac for House District 45, a swing district in Hays and Blanco. Because of that, both parties are targeting this area heavily. 

Zwiener was elected in 2018, making her the first Democrat to win the seat since 2010. She took over from Isaac’s husband, Jason Isaac, who held the seat from 2011 to 2019. Carrie Isaac said she wouldn’t be a typical freshman, because she has relationships in the Legislature already and campaign experience through her husband. She has also said flipping the seat back to red is the reason she’s running. 

What's Fueling The Shift?

Many observers say the county's change in demographics is what’s fueling the political change. The county has seen a steady increase in population, the majority of it from domestic migration, like people moving in from Travis County. There's also Texas State University; it’s believed student turnout largely fueled the district’s flip to blue in 2018. Students reported waiting in lines for more than an hour during that election, prompting the Texas Civil Rights Project to threaten the county with a voter suppression lawsuit.

This story has been updated. 

Got a tip? Email Riane Roldan at rroldan@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.

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