Voters ousted two longtime district judges on Tuesday, while a pair of incumbent justices of the peace held off their opponents to remain in office.
Republican Angelica Hernandez defeated longtime 105th District Judge Manuel Banales, who had held the position since 1986, accumulating 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Banales. The incumbent received 25,348 total votes, while Hernandez garnered 35,093.
This was the first time Banales, a Democrat, had faced an opponent during his 24-year tenure as district judge.
"It is just overwhelming," Hernandez said after final results from Tuesday's General Election were released.
"We feel very blessed and humbled by the results," she added.
Hernandez said she felt voters had listened to her message of urging compassion, alongside fair and balanced justice, in the courtroom, while also working to be better stewards of the taxpayers' money.
"I think that message resonated with (voters)," she said. "They want their elected officials not only to serve them…but to do so in a way that protects their tax dollars."
Another incumbent district judge, Democrat Marisela Saldana, lost her seat on the bench to Republican challenger Guy Williams. Saldana garnered 600 votes more than her opponent on Election Day, but it was not enough to overcome a nearly 4,000-vote lead Williams opened up in early voting.
Williams received 53 percent of the total vote on Tuesday, compared to 47 percent for Saldana. In all, Williams garnered a total of 31,970 votes to Saldana's 28,826 votes.
Current Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, Place 1 Amanda Torres, who was appointed last year by Nueces County Commissioners to serve in place of former justice of the peace Joe A. "JAG" Gonzalez, held off a late surge by Democratic challenger Joe Benavides to retain her seat.
Torres opened up a 1,300 vote lead over Benavides in early voting, but Election Day ballots leaned in the challenger's favor, with 5,579 votes cast for Benavides to Torres's 4,815. Benavides at one point even overtook Torres in the total vote count, but late returns from remaining precincts led Torres to a 11,064 vote victory over Benavides's 10,516.
Torres received 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Benavides.
"I just put it in God's hands," she said. "I'm so happy the people voted for me. I'm honored that they chose me to serve them.
Torres said she felt voters appreciated the work she has done during the past year to make the office more efficient and able to handle funds properly, an issue that was cited by the Nueces County Auditor as needing to be addressed during Gonzalez's tenure. Those improvements would continue, she added, now that voters have given her another two years to serve as justice of the peace.
The race was to fill Gonzalez's un-expired term. She will seek re-election in 2012 in order to serve the office's full four-year term.
"I've done a lot of hard work and I hit the ground running," she said. "Now, it's back to work."
In the race for Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Democratic incumbent Adolfo Contreras received 63 percent of the vote to write-in challenger David Ramirez's 37 percent. Contreras received 872 total votes, while Ramirez garnered 511 votes.