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Several factors contributed to Democratic downfall in area elections

By Sonny Long
Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.

Republican Daryl Fowler, left, DeWitt County county judge-elect, and Janine Stubbs, DeWitt County Democratic party chair, shared a laugh a few weeks before the election. Fowler unseated 24-year incumbent county judge Ben Prause to become the first Republican county judge in DeWitt County history.

Democratic party chairs in DeWitt and Lavaca counties, where Republicans made historic gains, agree that the political climate has changed, even at the local level.

Although Democratic candidates were not completely shutout, only two won contested elections Tuesday in DeWitt and Lavaca counties.

Incumbent Lavaca County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Bobby Pavliska, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Michael Ray Huser by 35 votes.

In DeWitt County, Democrat Donald Kuecker, who defeated the incumbent in the primary, won a commissioners court seat over write-in candidate Richard Rangle. There was no Republican Party candidate.

"Mr. Kuecker said it succinctly, 'The voters had their say,'" said Janine Stubbs, DeWitt County Democratic Party chair. "Yes, the voters had their say. Working for the common good is not popular today when the tidal wave of anger at the national government is fostered by corporate money as a result of the Republican Supreme Court."

Stubbs cited the defeat of long-term Democratic incumbents county judge Ben Prause, commissioner Joe Machalec and U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa as examples of good public servants rejected by the voters in DeWitt County.

Hinojosa won re-election district-wide, but did not carry DeWitt County.

Despite the setbacks and changes, Stubbs said Democrats will continue to work across party lines.

"We will continue to work with the newly elected officials for the good of the county and stress the importance of helping all people in the community," she said. "We are a party that is inclusive, not exclusive. We believe in government for the common good of our society."

James Thibodeaux, Lavaca County Democratic Party chairman, said other races on the ballot also influenced the Lavaca County outcomes.

"In our opinion, the Lavaca County Democratic candidates were the victims of the straight Republican ticket voters (1,606)," he said. "Though Donna Campbell lost her race, the fervor generated by her followers helped cause local Democrats to be defeated."

Campbell was a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives District 25 and received more than 5,000 votes in Lavaca County.

Other factors, including voter turnout, contributed to the Democratic losses, Thibodeaux said.

This year, 49 percent of Lavaca County's registered voters took to the polls compared to 65 percent in 2008.

"The mood in the country against Washington also played a part," he said.

Thibodeaux also gave credit where it was due.

"Tramer Woytek, candidate for county judge, ran a very good campaign," Thibodeaux said. "Democrats will regroup and charge ahead. This is politics."

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