News Column

Chesney, McComb rally again as Republican race for Nueces County Commissioners Court continues

May 14, 2014

By Nadia Tamez-Robledo, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Texas

May 14--CORPUS CHRISTI -- In a political race that stretched two months longer than other local elections in Nueces County, the Republican runoff candidates for Precinct 4 seat on the Commissioners Court are preparing for more block walking, phone banking and political ads.

One of the biggest concerns incumbent Joe McComb and Brent Chesney share about voters getting to the polls is out of their hands -- election day is May 27, the Monday after folks are back from or still enjoying Memorial Day weekend. Early voting is May 19-23.

The Commissioners Court has overseen $70 million budget during the 2013-2014 fiscal year for county services including the courts, indigent health care and the Department of Motor Vehicles offices. Precinct 4 encompasses fast-growing Southside Corpus Christi, Mustang Island, Padre Island, Schlitterbahn and coastal county parks.

There are four statewide Republican runoffs, but much of the money being spent to raise voter awareness is being spent in larger metropolitan areas like Houston and Dallas, McComb said.

"We're making phone calls, knocking on doors, getting our signs up and meeting with people," he said. "We're the only local game in town, and that's just in the 20 precincts out of 127 in county."

Another worry is how long it has been since the March 4 primary, Chesney said. The election dates are set by the Texas Secretary of State. "That's way too long for a runoff, and it's very hard to get people motivated to go back out and vote," he said. "It makes me work harder anyway."

Chesney had a nearly nine-point lead over McComb in the March primary, but it wasn't the majority vote needed to be declared winner. Voter turnout was miserable then, with 11.4 percent of registered Nueces County voters casting their ballots.

Chesney also outspent McComb, according to finance reports filed before the election.. About $31,300 was for advertising and about $8,200 for direct mail flyers.

About $25,500 was on advertising and about $3,000 on signs.

Nueces County Clerk Diana Barrera said history isn't on the candidates' side when it comes to runoff voters. So far about 1,695 mail-out ballots have been returned, 785 Republican and 910 Democrats.

"The runoff usually does not have as many people turn out as you would like, so I don't expect us to surpass the 6.8 percent," she said, referring to the runoff turnout in 2012. "We might even be at 5 percent. It's very hard to tell. We're going to hope for the best."

There is no Democratic challenger, so the winner of the Republican runoff will take the Commissioners Court seat.

People who voted in the primary must stick to the same party during the runoff election. People who haven't voted can cast their ballots within whichever party they choose.

Twitter: @CallerNadia


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