The gloves are already off in the Texas House District 73 runoff.
Tuesday’s Republican primary gave former New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel a slight edge over Carrie Isaac, with former New Braunfels City Council Member George Green a distant third.
Unofficial totals from Comal and Hays counties indicated of 28,427 votes cast, Casteel captured 45.63 percent, compared to Isaac’s 44.78 percent and Green’s 9.59 percent. Democrat Justin Calhoun, running unopposed, captured his party’s nomination and will face either Casteel or Isaac in November to succeed outgoing three-term GOP Rep. Kyle Biedermann.
Wednesday morning, Green said he’s not supporting Casteel or Isaac in the runoff.
“I will not endorse either of them,” he said. “I don’t think they are the caliber of people that we need to lead us into the future. I am sorely disappointed about that.
“In fact, I’m thinking about switching parties, if that’s what they (the voters) come up with. Frankly I’m disappointed that these are the kinds of candidates that the voters would even put up there. I’m in disbelief.”
Runoff elections featuring the top two vote-getters from Tuesday’s balloting will be held on Tuesday, May 24. While selecting nominees for 14 statewide offices and dozens more judicial benches, New Braunfels voters in both parties also selected among three-dozen plus U.S. House candidates vying in the 15th, 21st, 28th and 35th districts.
Incumbent District 21 Rep. Chip Roy took 83.3 percent of the GOP primary vote and will face the winner of the May 24 Democratic runoff between Claudia Zapata and Ricardo Villarreal. Monica De La Cruz easily captured the GOP nod in District 15; the Democratic nod will go to the runoff winner between Ruben Ramirez and Michelle Vallejo.
Cassy Garcia won the District 28 GOP nomination outright to face the winner of the Democratic runoff between incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar and challenger Jessica Cisneros. Dan McQueen and Michael Rodriguez will runoff for the District 35 GOP nomination, with Greg Casar assured of a runoff against Eddie Rodriguez or Rebecca Viagran. Rodriguez led Viagran by 21 votes, or 0.02 percent, late Wednesday.
Unofficially, 28,781 of 124,414 eligible Comal County voters, or 23.13% participated in Tuesday’s primary election finale. Early on, it appeared voter turnout might significantly drop due to mandates of Senate Bill 1, which led to thousands of voided ballots throughout the state.
Only 384 of 2,307 mail-in ballots were rejected, with another 517 pending decisions, including reviews of 133 provisional ballots cast on Tuesday. Elections Administrator Cynthia Jaqua said both parties will canvass election results on March 10.
Jaqua said Tuesday’s top vote totals from 25 countywide polling locations included Mammen Family Library in Bulverde (871 votes), Vintage Oaks (842), Garden Ridge City Hall (785), and the county’s Goodwin Annex in New Braunfels (744).
“People were still in line at several polls at 8:30 p.m.,” Jaqua said, adding the Mammen box was the last received at 11:10 p.m. and final totals were posted at 11:47 p.m.
Comal County virtually elected all GOP office incumbents – unopposed in November – to new four-year terms: County Judge Sherman Krause; Precinct 2 County Commissioner Scott Haag; Precinct 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover; County Clerk Bobbie Koepp; County Treasurer Renee Couch, and District Clerk Heather Kellar.
Also winning were Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Tom Clark, Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace James “Rick” Walker; Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mike Rust; Criminal District Attorney Jennifer Tharp; 274th District Court Judge Gary L. Steel; and 466th District Court Judge Stephanie Bascon.
That left only a handful of competitive local races.
District 25 Texas Senate incumbent Donna Campbell won 79.38 percent of the vote against challenger and Lakeway financial analyst Channon Cain (20.62 percent). Democrat Robert Walsh, a software engineer, was unopposed for the party nod. He will face Campbell to represent the district that encompasses portions of Comal, Bexar, Blanco, Kendall, Guadalupe, Hays and Travis counties.
New Braunfels attorney Tracie Wright-Reneau (35.07 percent of the vote) and Wimberley attorney Mark Cusack (30.26 percent) will runoff to succeed seven-term retiring 207th District Court Judge Jack Robison.
Winning GOP nominations and also unopposed in November were Ashley Evans, a specialty court administrator who defeated Mike Britt to succeed retiring five-term Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jennifer Saunders, and Randy Gray, Comal County Court at Law No. 1 incumbent since 2006, who bested Spring Branch resident and attorney Marilee Hazel.
Back to Texas House District 73, where both candidates believe the May 24 runoff winner will be the candidate who can best the other outside of their home counties. Casteel bested Isaac in Comal by a 10,847-9,775 margin; Isaac, a Dripping Springs resident, edged Casteel in Hays County, 2,950-2,119.
Both candidates said a runoff isn’t where they wanted to be, but they’re in it to win it.
“I felt it was going to be tight,” Casteel said. “I know that going into a runoff is disappointing but we’re going to work even harder.”
Isaac said a runoff was “not unexpected” before tossing the first salvo of the renewed campaign.
“I’m up against a candidate with a history of raising property taxes, boasting about implementing draconian lockdowns, and even profiting off federal bailouts meant for struggling businesses he himself forced to close,” she said of Casteel. “A candidate who launched a desperate smear campaign against a small veteran-focused nonprofit organization because he knows he can’t win on the issues. A candidate who claims to care for this district — yet rarely pauses flinging mud to tell voters what he’s actually for.”
Casteel accused Isaac of making “some very negative, perhaps slanderous accusations,” but added people can say “things that just aren’t true” because of freedom of speech.
“I’ve never raised taxes, but only lowered them while I was mayor and that’s on public record,” he said, adding the city added 44 officers while leading New Braunfels from 2014-20.
“When someone doesn’t have a public record, they can say and do and promise almost anything,” he added. “I am not the candidate who has had her name or her husband’s name on the ballot for well over a decade — many times unsuccessfully.”