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Votes trickle in for Senate District 6 race to replace Garcia

November 30, 2018

More than 5,000 voters had cast ballots as of Friday in the special election to replace Sylvia Garcia in Senate District 6.

The Harris County Clerk’s Office reported 1,580 in-person votes and 3,788 returned mail ballots, bringing the total through the first five days of early voting to 5,368 ballots cast.

Four candidates — Democratic state Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, Democratic consultant Mia Mundy and Harris County Republican Party precinct chairwoman Martha Fierro — are seeking the seat.

Garcia, a former Harris County commissioner, resigned her state Senate seat after she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 6.

Though Gov. Greg Abbott waited to announce the special election until Nov. 9, jockeying for the expected vacancy began months ago, since Garcia was expected to win easily in her race for Texas’ 29th Congressional District. She ultimately captured 70 percent of the vote in the contest to replace Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, who had announced more than a year ago that he would not seek reelection.

University of Houston political science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus said Alvarado is most likely to win, since she has out-raised her opponents and secured key endorsements.

“She has more geographic overlap with her district, and she was on TV with ads,” he said. “In a race like this it’s going to be a sprint to the finish line, and that’s going to go to the best-prepared candidate.”

Hernandez and Alvarado’s House districts occupy portions of Senate District 6. If either wins, Harris County must hold another special election to fill the House seat she will vacate.

The new senator likely will be a Democrat, since the district was drawn to benefit the party and more than two-thirds of voters there supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

This marks the second time in six year that District 6 will get a new senator via special election. In January 2013, Garcia beat seven other challengers, including Alvarado, after Sen. Mario Gallegos died in office at age 62. Only 5.6 percent of nearly 300,000 eligible voters participated, typical of elections held at unusual times.

This past August, despite a public campaign urging voters to show up at the polls, just 6.7 percent of voters cast ballots on the $2.5 billion Harris County flood bond proposal.

After Harris County voters shattered early voting records this fall, Rottinhaus said “voter fatigue” may contribute to dismal turnout in the S.D. 6 race. Hector de Leon, spokesman for Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, estimated that just shy of 20,000 voters would turn out.

Early voting will continue daily through Friday, Dec. 7 at nine locations. Regular balloting will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Residents can find their polling place at HarrisVotes.com.

zach.despart@chron.com

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