By Terry Britt, Staff Writer
CANTON—Van Zandt County Republican Party Chairman Lance Lenz stood in the county clerk’s office, still with a subtle expression of amazement as he looked over final vote totals in Tuesday’s run-off elections.
“Usually, you are hoping a run-off election will draw 10 percent of the voters who turned up for the primary. You certainly don’t expect to see this,” he said.
“This” was an unofficial tally of 7,581 — a mark less than 600 votes from matching the primary vote total in May — for just nine run-off races between the Republican and Democratic parties.
However, this was a case of campaign quality, not quantity. Three high-profile local run-offs on the Republican ticket and a hotly contested race for the U.S. Senate brought voters out in droves.
That was the case for both the single week of early voting and on Tuesday.
“The turnout was definitely more than anticipated,” said Van Zandt County Clerk Charlotte Bledsoe. “Generally in a run-off election, compared to the primary, you have a smaller number of voters.”
She added that the 10 percent figure is “typically normal” when compared to primary election numbers.
However, a sign that this run-off election would draw much higher totals could be seen immediately after the polls closed Tuesday evening.
The released early voting and mail-in ballot count showed just more than 2,700.
As election judges arrived at the Van Zandt County Courthouse with their ballot boxes, Lenz talked about the factors he felt was leading to a surprisingly big voter turnout.
“All signs point to it being much heavier than I thought it would be,” he said. “A few polls had to go to photocopies of ballots that had to be hand-counted, which, in a way, is good.
“The three local Republican run-off races and the U.S. Senate run-off has drawn out voters, there is no doubt about it,” Lenz continued. “The sheriff’s race and the Senate race built interest countywide.
“You also had two county commissioner run-off races and those drew a lot of voters, the one in Grand Saline (Precinct 1), especially,” Lenz said.
Brandon Brown, who defeated Tony Miller in the run-off for the Republican nomination for Precinct 1 Commissioner, said he was greatly pleased by the voter turnout.
“I think it was as a result of the campaigning efforts of all of the candidates. Everyone got the word out in general and did all they could to encourage people to come out and vote,” Brown said.