Voters Paint Midland Red

Voters painted Midland County red Tuesday as Republican statewide and countywide candidates won by an average of 79 percent over their Democratic challengers, according to unofficial voting results from Midland County.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway maintained the congressional seat he’s held since 2005. Challenged by Democrat Jennie Lou Leeder and Libertarian Rhett Rosenquest Smith, the Republican incumbent won with 81 percent of the vote. State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. Tom Craddick also held on to their seats with 88 and 82 percent of the vote, respectively.

The most high-profile race on the county level was to fill outgoing County Judge Mike Bradford’s seat, who will be retiring at the end of the year. Republican Terry Johnson secured a major victory against Democrat Steven Schafersman with 82 percent of the vote. Johnson won the Republican nomination in a May runoff after he and former Republican County Chair James Beauchamp failed to capture a majority vote in the March primary.

Johnson campaigned on bringing more transparency to county government, allowing residents more say in major financial decisions and cutting taxes. He’s also a vocal critic of the decisions the county has made regarding its tax-funded event venue, the Midland County Horseshoe. With Johnson’s substantially more conservative stance on issues compared to Bradford, it’s likely a shift will take place in the county’s priorities moving forward.

Of Midland’s nonpartisan, contested races, two city council at-large seats and two school board seats were up for grabs. Candidates for the city council seats included incumbent at-large city council member Spencer Robnett, real estate developer Chase Gardaphe, and former city council member Michael Trost. Robnett and Trost received a majority of the votes with 48 and 29 percent, respectively. Gardaphe received 22 percent. While Trost campaigned on lowering taxes, his voting record as a former city council member showed consistent support of tax increases, except for the year he was unseated by current city council member J. Ross Lacy. All eyes will be on Trost in 2019 to see if he follows through on his campaign promises or reverts back to his past voting pattern.

Midland Independent School District’s board will gain one new trustee and keep another, according to Tuesday’s election results. Former Lee High School teacher Heidi Kirk was the top vote-getter for District 5, which was vacated earlier this year when former trustee Karen Nicholson retired. Kirk received 38.57 percent of the vote while engineer Thomas Wolfmueller and Midland County Library Director John Trischitti III trailed closely behind with 30.72 and 30.71 percent, respectively.

With no candidate gaining over 50 percent of the vote, Kirk and Wolfmueller will head into a runoff.

Incumbent school board trustee and board president Rick Davis maintained his position as District 6 representative with 64 percent of the vote. Davis was challenged by former teacher Lauren Party and engineer Austin Beam. Davis has served on MISD’s board since 2008 and as the board president since 2012.

With Johnson as the new county judge, Trost back on city council, and Kirk  or Wolfmueller elected to MISD School Board, each major governing body in Midland will have a new voice and perspective to hear from. And with a possible $546 million school bond proposal in 2019 and continued unprecedented growth in the region, the new year will undoubtedly provide its share of challenges.

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Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau for Empower Texans & Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.

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