Republicans will maintain its slim majority on the Nueces County Commissioners Court after the victory of incumbent County Judge Loyd Neal, while a former justice of the peace will take over the Precinct 2 seat.
Neal handily won re-election to a second term as county judge over his Democratic opponent, first-time political candidate Clarissa Gonzalez by more than 14,000 votes. He opened a sizeable lead in early voting and never looked back, clinching a majority of Election Day votes and winding up with 62 percent of the vote to Gonzalez's 38 percent.
Neal finished the race with 37,799 total votes compared to 23,404 for Gonzalez.
After his victory, Neal said he was humbled by the results, particularly since the South Texas area is known to be primarily a Democratic stronghold.
"I'm very grateful. It looks like, with the vote that we've seen, I was successful in reaching all across the county, including some precincts where I have not really done that well in before," Neal said "To me, that's a testimony to people thinking I'm doing a good job and I'm looking forward to doing a better job during the next four years."
Neal said, as a Republican, he was also pleased to see his party faring well in the Coastal Bend following the Nov. 2 General Election.
"We all talked about having people who believe in local control, letting taxes stay low, conservative government, fiscal responsibility - people who believe in things that most families believe in," he said. "I think it's showing that's what people wanted this year…and it appears that's what the people of Nueces County have asked for."
Former justice of the peace Joe A. "JAG" Gonzalez won the race to replace outgoing Precinct 2 County Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria after garnering 56 percent of last week's votes to Republican Gil Hernandez's 44 percent. Gonzalez received 7,528 votes to 6,018 votes for Hernandez.
The win keeps Longoria's seat under the control of the Democratic Party, leaving Gonzalez and Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz as the only Democrats on the five-member court.
"I think voters knew that for years I walked the walk and talked the talk," Gonzalez said, referring to his tenure as justice of the peace. "They know they're going to have someone who is going to work hard for them and represent them and not special interest groups."
Gonzalez said he would be working over the next couple of months, prior to his January swearing-in ceremony, familiarizing himself with issues he wants to make a priority during the beginning of his four-year tenure. Those issues include addressing countywide drainage problems and cutting unnecessary expenditures, he said.
"We need to get more serious with that," Gonzalez said.
When asked if being a Democrat on a Republican-controlled Commissioners Court could lead to any problems for him, Gonzalez said he would work with the court's members to ensure his constituents are properly represented.
"I know it's a give and take relationship," he said. "I don't plan to vote along party lines. I'm going to vote on what's best for the people."