Low turnout expected in runoff election

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

June 1, 2013 at 1:01 a.m.
Updated June 2, 2013 at 1:02 a.m.

The race to determine the next Victoria City councilman will move forward Monday, albeit with a low turnout expected.

The runoff election pits incumbent Joe Truman, the vice president of Truman Transfer & Storage, against Andrew Young, a licensed physician and co-owner of Podiatry Associates of Victoria, for Super District 5, which covers the southern half of Victoria.

Elections Administrator George Matthews expects only one in 28 voters to cast a ballot for the runoff, which will cost the city $25,000, according to financial records.

With the third-place finisher and former councilman Gabriel Soliz endorsing Truman, this election could be tight, especially if either candidate buses voters to the polls.

Candidates can legally drive voters to the ballot boxes so long as they do not give anything in exchange for votes, including cash or food, Matthews said.

"That's about the only way you can get people to show up sometimes," Matthews said. "But you cannot promise them something like, 'I'll take you to vote and give you $5 when you're done.'"

The lowest turnout in the last 10 years was the District 1 City Council race between Denise Rangel and Jeff Lyon in 2009. Only 504, or 7 percent, of the city's registered and eligible voters participated.

For this election, only the 15,096 voters registered in Super District 5 will be able to participate. Voting in the May 11 election is not a requirement to vote in the runoff election.

Matthews predicts this election will have a turnout somewhere between 3.5 percent and 7 percent. So far, he has received 139 of the 344 mail-out ballots.

One factor that could play a role in the turnout was a controversy from the May 14 City Council meeting, in which four council members, including Truman, may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by organizing in a "walking quorum" beforehand.

Matthews said at that moment, it could have played a role in driving up voters.

"There were a lot of people who came (to the council meeting) just to see what was going on, but the focus of the moment changes pretty quickly," he said.

Truman was on the verge of ending his campaign and supporting his opponent because of the controversy.

Since that meeting, he said, he has been insulted and threatened with indictment.

"I was so upset by the anxiety in our community over this and that I had any part of it," Truman said. "I almost got to the point where I thought it was better for Victoria if I dropped out."

He said the thanks, praise and support from his constituents turned him around.

Truman said he wants to continue representing and developing the district.

"What I dislike the most is that it feels like it's the haves against the have-nots," Truman said.

He pointed to his opponent's financial supporters, which includes several large donations from restaurateurs, a former mayor and business owners.

Truman has only had one $1,000 or greater donation to his campaign, from Robby Burdge, according to his campaign finance reports.

Truman said he is pushing forward with volunteers.

"I am so grateful to the citizens of Victoria for giving me this," Truman said. "I will continue fighting for their issues, and I will represent them all equally and fairly."

Young said his supporters come from all walks of life and have given more than money, including advice, kind words and sign locations.

"It shows that people believe in me and trust that I have the best interest of our city at heart," he said.

Young said he respects the City Council's May 14 decision to take more time to research the legality of declaring Paul Polasek mayor.

"I think the way that it was done or perceived was inappropriate," he said. "The final outcome of getting more time was absolutely reasonable."

Young said he joined the race without expectations.

"It's been a lot of work," he said. "There's been obviously some drama associated with it."

Young said his goal is to better Victoria.

"It's not a choosing sides thing or an agenda thing, it's all about doing what's right for Victoria and for Victorians," he said.

Young said he is planning another fundraiser, more mailers and more signs.

"It's full steam ahead," he said.



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