Voters in Nueces County turned out in record numbers for last week's primary elections, selecting who they want to represent their respective parties in November.
Of the county's 191,401 registered voters, about 28 percent, or more than 53,000 people, showed up at their respective polling locations to cast their ballots to select a candidate for various national, state and county offices.
By comparison, in 2004's primary election, during which President George W. Bush was seeking re-election, only about 34,000 Nueces County voters showed up to the polls.
In the race for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, had a huge wave of support from Nueces County voters, winning 66 percent of the vote to 33 percent for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois.
Statewide, Clinton finished with 51 percent of the vote March 4 while Obama had 47 percent, one of three primary election victories last week for the New York Senator. She also won Rhode Island and Ohio, while Obama captured Vermont and maintained his delegate lead.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, wrapped up the Republican nomination March 4 with victories in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island. McCain won the Lone Star State with 63 percent of the vote. His closest competitor was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who finished with 28 percent. Texas congressman Ron Paul finished in third place with 4 percent of the vote.
Other election results from around the state and Nueces County are as follows:
- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, moved one step closer to re-election last week after holding off challenger Larry Kilgore, 74 percent to 26 percent, to represent the Republican Party in November.
On the Democratic side for U.S. Senate, District 145 state Rep. Rick Noriega easily won the Democratic nomination after defeating Gene Kelly, 61 percent to 24 percent. Ray McMurrey finished third with 9 percent of the vote, while Rhett R. Smith came in last with 6 percent. Noriega will face Cornyn in November's general election.
- In the race for a U.S. Representative for District 27, a Republican challenger has emerged to face incumbent Solomon P. Ortiz, who ran unopposed in the March 4 Democratic primary. William "Willie" Vaden received 57 percent of the vote against George Benavidez, who finished the night with 43 percent. Vaden ran unsuccessfully against Ortiz in 2006.
- In the contest to try and unseat Republican incumbent Michael L. Williams on the Texas Railroad Commission, who ran unopposed last week, Mark Thompson won the Democratic nomination with 54 percent of the vote. Challengers Dale Henry and Art Hall finished with 28 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
- In the race for two spots on the Texas Supreme Court, both Republican incumbents ran unopposed last week.
On the Democratic side, Baltasar D. Cruz won 63 percent of the vote while his challenger, Sam Houston, only received 37 percent. Cruz will face incumbent Dale Wainwright in November for the Place 7 seat on the Texas Supreme Court.
Democrat Linda Reyna Yanez will face incumbent Phil Johnson in November for the Place 8 seat on the state's highest court, after defeating challenger Susan Criss, 69 percent to 31 percent.
- Republican incumbent Paul Womack won his party's nomination over Robert Francis, 73 percent to 27 percent, as he begins his re-election campaign as Place 4 judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Francis will run against Democratic challenger J.R. Molina, who ran unopposed last week, in November's general election.
- The race for the District 2 seat on the Texas State Board of Education is now down to two candidates after Democratic incumbent Mary Helen Berlanga won 75 percent of the vote over her opponent, Lupe A. Gonzalez, who only received 25 percent. Berlanga will face Republican Peter H. Johnston, who ran unopposed March 4, in November.
- Current Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who did not have any opposition for the Republican Party's nomination last week, will face off against Democratic opponent Jesse Mark Flores in November.
Flores defeated challenger Vidal De La Cerda for the Democratic nomination, 71 percent to 29 percent.
- In the hotly contested race for Precinct 1 Nueces County Commissioner, Democratic incumbent Peggy Banales held off challenger Joe Benavides, 59 percent to 41 percent, and will face Republican Mike Pusley in November's general election.
- Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs general manager Hector Salinas won the Democratic nomination in March 4 primary election, garnering 55 percent of the vote, for Precinct 2, Place 1 Justice of the Peace.
His challengers, Joel Stanley Mumphord and Sal Hernandez, finished with 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
Salinas will face Republican incumbent Janice Stoner, who ran unopposed, in November's general election.
- Barring an Independent challenger, Democratic incumbent Robert "Bobby" Gonzalez has essentially won re-election after defeating challenger Lorenzo Rojas in last week's primary election, 68 percent to 32 percent. There was no Republican candidate on the ballot.
- With no Republican opposition in the March 4 primary election for Precinct 3 constable, Democratic voters were left to decide if they would re-elect incumbent Jack E. Caughman.
However, with three Democratic opponents also fighting for the position, Caughman failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off, managing only 43 percent.
The incumbent will face Jimmy Rivera in the April 8 countywide run-off election. Rivera finished second with 30 percent of the vote. Challengers Robert Gonzalez and Frank Garcia finished with 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
- The impending retirement of Precinct 5 Constable Mike Roldan brought five candidates forward, all Democrats, to replace him.
None of the candidates were able to gather more than 50 percent of the vote last week, meaning the top two finishers will take part in the April 8 countywide run-off election.
Frank Flores III finished the night with 33 percent of the vote, while second place was decided by less than 30 votes. Dionicio "Don" Ysassi received 23 percent of the vote, which was 960 ballots, while Gilbert Gomez finished with 22 percent, or 934 votes.
As a result, Flores is tentatively scheduled to face Ysassi in the April 8 countywide election. However, Nueces County Clerk Diana Barrera acknowledged last week that Gomez had contacted her office inquiring about what steps needed to be taken to initiate a recount.
The Nueces County Democratic Party will ultimately decide if a recount is necessary and Gomez would be required to pay for it in advance, Barrera said.
With no Republican Precinct 5 constable candidate on the March 4 primary election ballot, whoever wins the run-off election in April would theoretically be Roldan's successor by default, she added.
Gerardo "Gerald" Ochoa finished in fourth place with 14 percent of the vote, while Rolando Martinez received 7 percent.
- With five opponents looking to unseat incumbent Alex Garcia Jr. as chairperson for the Nueces County Democratic Party, no one was able to gather more than 50 percent of the vote last week.
Garcia, who finished with 34 percent of the vote, will face Lucy Rubio, who had 25 percent, in the April 8 countywide run-off election.
Carolyn Moon managed to receive 17 percent of the vote for third place, while Robert Zamora finished the night with 16 percent. Evy Coppola received only 7 percent of the votes to finish last.
Managing Editor Jeff Tucker contributed to this report.