How Hays County flipped from red to blue in four years

Sahar Chmais 

Hays County turned blue this election year, not only in the presidential race. Across the board, the competition between Democratic and Republican nominees in Hays County leaned toward a Democratic-party win. 

That does not mean that Democratic-party nominees were the only winners in these elections. 

For sheriff, Republican Gary Cutler won by about 2,000 more votes than opponent Alex Villalobos. Republican Jenifer O’Kane, running for Tax Assessor-Collector, beat opponent Daphne Tenorio by approximately 1,500 votes. Running for Commissioner Precinct 3, Republican Lon A. Shell received 1,000 more votes than opponent Lisa Prewitt. For the position of Constable Precinct 3, Republican Don Montague led over opponent Cynthia Millonzi by over 3,000 votes. 

In 2016, Hays County leaned more Republican with just a few positions that were won over by the Democrats. 

Donna Hashcke, Hays County Democratic Party chair, attributed the Democratic-party win to several factors. This year was very different from years prior in the large number of voter-registration and voter-turnout. More than 71% of registered voters submitted a ballot and that played a role, said Hashcke. 

Although voter-turnout is a factor, it could not be the only driving force that caused the Democratic win. Strong voter turnout was coupled with the County’s changing demographic. Hashcke said that the county has people moving in from Austin, California and other places that tend to vote Democrat. Younger populations tend to vote Democrat as well, said Hashcke, and Hays County has a large student population. 

The leniency toward a larger Democratic population did not occur overnight. In 2018, Hashcke began to see a larger shift toward blue votes when she and other party representatives would advocate for their party door-to-door. 

But Hays County is not all blue — especially in certain cities. Dripping Springs and Wimberley remain to be predominantly red cities in the county, said Hashcke. 

It was more difficult to feel the influence of these cities because while they are growing, they are not expanding at the rate of Kyle and Buda. 

 

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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