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Barton defeats incumbent Sumter in Hays County Judge race

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 by John Davidson

Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton roundly defeated incumbent Hays County Judge Liz Sumter in the Democratic primary Tuesday, taking 56 percent of the vote. After the win, however, Barton struck a conciliatory tone, saying it was time to bring his party together locally.


“It’s gratifying to win by a flattering margin but I’m keenly conscious that we need to put together the Democratic Party,” Barton said. “And not only the Democratic Party but also a broader groups of people in our community—committed independents, even Republicans, to build a consensus around how we face the challenges here in Hays County.”


Those challenges, Barton says, include rapid growth and a need to balance building infrastructure with preserving the county’s natural habitat—challenges that Sumter has also pointed to, saying that despite her losing the election there is still a lot of work to do between now and November.


“I don’t feel bad about it; everything is fine,” Sumter said. “We’re going to press forward and get a lot of things done in the following year.”


Barton’s win comes after months of squabbling between Barton and Sumter on the dais and in the local press. Sumter has cast doubt on Barton’s ability to follow through on road projects and other initiatives, and Barton has accused Sumter of not being proactive enough on transportation and infrastructure problems facing the county.


On the Republican side, physician Bert Cobb defeated Peggy Jones in the county judge race and will face Barton in November. Barton, who is currently Pct 2 Commissioner, announced in early January that he would be running for County Judge and did not file for reelection to the commissioner’s seat.


That vacated seat is now up for grabs between Republican Mark Jones, who beat out former Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez in his party’s primary, and Democrat Ray Bryant, a former Kyle City Council member who vacated his seat to run for the Pct 2 Commissioner seat. Jones is vice president of the Hays CISD School Board.


Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford ran unopposed and will face off against Republican challenger Ray Whisenant, president of the Texas Ground Water Association, in November.


Current Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff defeated former Hays County Deputy Bill Huddleston for the Democratic nomination in a contest that was Ratliff’s first election. County Commissioners appointed Ratliff to the job after the previous sheriff, Allen Bridges, died in December 2008. Ratliff will face Republican Gary Cutler, a state police officer and former Travis County Deputy Sheriff, in November’s general election.


In off-presidential years, voter turnout for primary elections can sometimes be dismal. This year was different. A total of 2,745 Democrats and 4,041 Republicans turned out for early voting and Election Day combined in 2006, the last primary election in an off-presidential year. But this year, a total of 15,377 Hays County voters cast ballots. That number includes 2,607 Democrats and 3,410 Republicans who participated in early voting.

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