History was made on Tuesday evening as the oaths of office were administered to new council members Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson. After Clarkson was sworn in, Kerrville became, for the first time, led by a majority-female City Council. Mayor Blackburn congratulated the new civil servants and thanked the outgoing council members Voelkel and Baroody. Soon after the pomp and circumstance, the new council sat for their first meeting.
Each outgoing and incoming council member delivered a short speech. Voelkel reminisced about the positive and funny moments from his two years of service. Baroody gave advice to incoming council members and promised that he is not going anywhere, and will continue to be active in the community.
Incoming Place 1 council member Gary Cochrane promised that he would be an independent-thinking and thorough council person. Newly installed Place 2 council member Kim Clarkson gave an impassioned speech regarding the importance of service. See each of the speeches in the full council video below.
A small celebration was held in the lobby following the short ceremony. The council reconvened at 6:00 PM for their first regular meeting. The full city council meeting can be viewed below.
Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the results of the 2019 election, we can start identifying trends and drawing conclusions about how well our community came out to vote for this year’s city council races. All of the data used herein is drawn from publicly available sources.
Here are some of the things we wanted to know…
What was the turnout figure?
What age groups are voting?
How many first-time voters did we have this year?
Let’s examine each of these topics one at a time.
As we mentioned in our previous article about this election, the overall voter turnout in this election was approximately 19.6% of registered voters. The quantity of ballots cast in this election is the third-largest in Kerrville history, and this turnout number is triple the low point of 2013. We have seen a steady increase in turnout since 2013.
One of the misunderstandings about Kerrville’s population is that it’s not overwhelmingly skewed towards the older folks among us. In fact, only about 30% of the population is over the age of 62. And for our purposes in this article, about 38.6% of the population is over the age of 55. Those from 18 to 54 years of age make up about 38.8%. So as we compare voter numbers, keep in mind that the 18-55 population is nearly numerically identical to the over 55 population. (US Census Factfinder)
But as we look at registered voters, we can see that the majority of voters are, in fact, over 55. There were 15,455 registered voters in April 2019, and of those, 56% were over the age of 55. Only 44% were under 55. So we can already see a disparity between the age distribution of Kerrville’s overall population versus the age distribution of registered voters.
But wait, there’s more. When we look at the number of folks who actually voted in 2019, we find that 79% of voters were over the age of 55. Only 21% of voters were under the age of 55. So we see a large disparity between not only the general population versus the registered ages, but we also see that the vote is heavily shifted to the older end of the spectrum.
In the graph shown above, we see that the vast majority of voters are between the ages of 65 and 85. In fact, about 57% of voters are within that age bracket.
In the last age graph below, we compare the percentage of these age groups in the general population versus the ages in the voting population. Orange is the general population, and blue is the voting population.
This last chart gives us our main “age” takeaway… Older voters (over 55) are much more likely to vote than younger voters. The group with the highest probability of voting is the 70-79 year olds. The age group least likely to vote is the 18-29 year old group.
Voter turnout for under 55 voters: 9.4%
Voter turnout for over 55 voters: 27.6%
First, let’s make a distinction. For our purposes, we’re defining “first-time voter” as someone who did not cast a ballot in the 2017 nor the 2018 citywide election, but they did cast a vote in the 2019 election. For this May’s election, there were 578 voters that met that criteria. 578 voters did not vote in 2017 or 2018, but cast a ballot in 2019.
These “new” voters made up 19% of the total number of ballots cast in 2019.
This group of voters is somewhat younger than the average voter, but their geography is widely distributed. In other words, they are younger overall, but they do not reside in one specific area of town.
Local elections are dominated by the older age groups.
Younger voters register in high numbers, but don’t actually vote very often.
The older the voter, the more likely she is to cast a ballot, until reaching age 80, when the likelihood begins to decrease.
This election energized 578 voters that had not cast a ballot in a few years. This group made up nearly 1/5 of the ballots cast.
If all voices are to be heard in local elections, voter turnout efforts must continue.
As the warm and sunny election day turned into election evening, a large group of supporters huddled around the nearest laptop waiting for the early results to post to the Kerr County Elections website. Seven o’clock came and went, but results were not immediately forthcoming. (Traditionally the county releases the results of early voting immediately after the polls close on election day.) Then, as an uncharacteristically emotional outburst from Cochrane echoed through the room, the outcome was evident without even seeing the numbers. Candidates Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson each received a pair of telephone calls from the City Secretary’s office — the first offering relief (with early voting numbers) and the second offering confirmation (final tallies). Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson had won the election.
671 votes were cast on election day, bringing the total turnout in this election to 3,021 — the first time an “odd-year” election has broken 3,000. With approximately 15,400 registered voters in the City of Kerrville, this means that about 20% of the registered voters cast a ballot this time around. This is a significant increase over the same election two years ago. In 2017, only 2,153 votes were cast, yielding a turnout of just 14.4%.
This year’s total of 3,021 earns the distinction of being the third largest turnout in Kerrville election history, behind 2018 and 2016, respectively. This year earns the honor of the highest-ever odd-year election total.
This year’s 671 ballots on election day represented only about 22% of the overall vote. The election day impact has shrunk significantly since 2017, with a higher percentage of the voters casting an early ballot.
Cochrane and Clarkson held a comfortable lead in the early results that included seven days of in-person early voting plus mail-in ballots. When the early numbers arrived, Clarkson held a 63-37% advantage while Cochrane led with a 64-36% margin. But Baroody and Garcia did narrow the margin some on election day. Saturday voters went 52% for Cochrane and Clarkson, with 48% going to Baroody and Garcia, narrowing that early lead by a few points.
Notably in this election, the two pairs of candidates ran their campaigns in alignment, and the results suggest that voters understood these relationships and voted accordingly. Just a 1% difference separated the winning margins in the two races — Cochrane with 61% and Clarkson with 60% after all votes were counted.
After the final results were posted, Mario Garcia made his way to Kim Clarkson’s election night headquarters and offered his congratulations. However, as of Sunday morning, Gary Cochrane has not received any communications from George Baroody.
Baroody did offer something of a compliment to Cochrane as he told the Hill Country Community Journal,
“Gary Cochrane came to me after the polls closed and shook hands with me. And I agree it was a good race. It was nice to have it be a clean thing. The issues were the issues and I still believe a big portion of the community was not heard,” Baroody said. “I would like to keep the issues at the forefront, and continue to advocate for the people. I was proud to serve for two years, and will continue to serve my community, however that may be.”
Garcia’s first foray into the political arena did not succeed as he’d hoped, but he remained positive, telling the Hill Country Community Journal,
“I felt we ran a good clean campaign. I was there until the polls closed. Right now I just feel really numb. But I went to congratulate Kim Clarkson at her party tonight and told her to work hard,” Garcia said. “She said to stay close and to bring any issues to her. I enjoyed the campaign and my goal was to bring a higher voter turnout and run my campaign with humility and civility – the good old decent way, sort of the Andy Griffith way.”
The results will be canvassed and the newest council members will be sworn in at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, May 14, just ahead of a 6:00 PM regular city council meeting where they will immediately begin their duties on the dais.
In the mean time, current council members Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody will continue to serve in Place 1 and Place 2, respectively.
Kim Clarkson and Gary Cochrane win seats on council with about 60% of the vote
Turnout is up 40% from the same election 2017
Turnout lags behind 2018 by approximately 1,000 votes
Election day’s impact is shrinking as more voters turn out for early voting
Overall voter turnout was 20% of registered voters
Part of Kerrville United’s mission is to engage with younger voters and encourage them to cast a ballot in local elections. But historically, Kerrville’s elections are dominated by older voters, and the turnout among younger voters is quite low. So far, this year’s election holds true to that trend, with older voters showing up in far greater percentages than younger voters.
For our purposes today, we’ll divide voters into two groups — under 55, and 55 and older. The city’s electorate (registered voters) is made up of 44% younger voters (under 55) and 56% older voters (55 years and older). The average voter age is 55, and the median age is 58.
However, the voters this year consist of 82% older voters and just 18% younger voters. The average voter age in this year’s election, so far, is 67 years of age, and the median age is 71. Younger voters are vastly outnumbered. More votes have been cast by folks 80 and over than have been cast by folks under 55, even though there are 6,863 registered voters under 55 compared to just 1,901 over 80.
Here is a visual display of that trend. The chart below is a histogram showing the number of registered voters within the City of Kerrville. To the left are the 18-year-olds, and to the right are the oldest voters.
And the following histogram shows the age distribution of the voters who have cast a ballot so far in 2019. Again, younger voters to the left, and older voters to the right.
As you can see, the histogram is “skewed right” meaning more older voters are voting than younger voters.
What can we do?
If younger voters wish to have their wants and needs represented on City Council or any other local office, we must energize younger voters to get out and cast a ballot in these local elections. Kerrville United seeks to educate and inform younger voters by presenting news and information on channels where younger voters congregate — social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to education, the younger voters that do participate must help spread the word and encourage their friends, family, neighbors, and younger community members to get involved.
Although overall turnout is on the rise in recent years, turnout among younger voters remains low.
So far during this election, 82% of voters are over the age of 55.
More votes have been cast by folks 80 and over than have been cast by folks under 55.
Younger voters must engage if they wish for their voices to be collectively heard.
We relied upon daily turnout numbers and voter demographics supplied to us by the Kerr County Elections department. These source materials will be made available to the public after the election.
Tuesday was the last day to vote early by appearance. Polls closed at 5:00 PM Tuesday on the seventh day of voting at the Cailloux Theater. The last chance to cast a ballot will be this Saturday, May 4, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM at the same Cailloux Theater in Kerrville.
Why don’t we report early voting numbers?
Kerrville’s voter turnout in citywide elections is notoriously and embarrassingly low — historically speaking. Although turnout has been on the rise for the past couple of years, we believe that reporting voter turnout numbers may dissuade certain voters. During the election, we only wish to encourage voters and increase turnout. Reporting the numbers can wait until after election day! We will post the turnout numbers and do an analysis of voter demographics.
Election Day Activities
Voting begins at 7 AM on Saturday, May 4. Polls close at 7:00 PM. What happens then?
Approx. 7:00-8:00 PM – Election officials will release a tally of early voters and mail-in ballots. These early voting percentages tend to be similar to election day ratios. These early voting totals are released online at Kerr County Elections page.
Approx. 8:00-9:00 PM – Election officials will release the final totals and a winner will be announced. Mail-in ballots are accepted up until (and including) election day, so the final total may vary slightly, but typically, a winner can be announced with a great deal of certainty once these final tallies are released.
Later… Candidates traditionally release a statement to reporters and supporters at the various election day gatherings. Results will be posted here on Kerrville United!
After election day, final votes are tallied, including mail-in ballots. Typically a special city council meeting is called to canvas the results and swear in the new council members. This meeting date has not been officially posted as of this writing.
The new city council will hold its first regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 14.
Friday, April 26, was the deadline for the second campaign finance reports from city council candidates. This will be the last set of reports filed before the election, and second-to-last report overall. Why do these reports matter? Looking “behind the curtain” helps voters understand the costs involved in an election campaign, and the reports give insight into who funds the campaigns and where the money is spent.
The first reports were filed back on April 4 and covered the beginning of the campaigns in January through March 25. You’ll remember that it was that set of reports that led to the story about Baroody’s filing error which named the wrong campaign donor, leading to a story in the paper and a corrected filing. So these reports are important to study closely, if for no other reason than to keep the candidates honest.
These newest reports cover the period from March 26 through April 24. Here are some key takeaways…
Candidate for Place 2 Kim Clarkson received the highest total contributions for the second straight reporting period, logging just over $5,700 in contributions. Place 1 candidate Gary Cochrane came in second with $5,360. Garcia and Baroody collected far fewer dollars this period with small numbers of donors.
Campaign spending decreased this period and the expenses shifted largely to newspaper advertising, whereas during the first cycle, most of the money was spent on promotional items such as yard signs. Clarkson had the highest expenses followed by Cochrane, Garcia, and Baroody.
One of the items required on the report is the “total contributions maintained as of last day of reporting period” AKA, cash on hand. Here are the amounts reported:
NOTE: Although Cochrane did not report this number, it appears based on our estimate that he should have approximately $8,800 remaining.
These figures beg the question: What becomes of these leftover funds when the campaign is over? It’s important to note that this is not the last report. During the last days of the campaign and the weeks following, many more expenses could be incurred. For example, there are election night gatherings, last minute printings, and other expenses that are incurred in the final days. Following the campaign, some contractors send invoices for their work during the entire campaign period. So it’s not clear whether or not the candidates will have anything leftover after the last report has been filed.
That said, remaining balances can be saved and used for reelection campaigns, they can be donated to other campaigns, and there are a few more legal uses of the monies that remain after the bills have been paid.
Clarkson continues to lead the pack when it comes to contributions as well as expenses.
Baroody raised very little during this reporting period and had to dip into personal funds to make up the difference.
Cochrane has the largest sum remaining in the war chest, according to our estimate.
Garcia maintains a solid nest egg in the bank for the last few days of the campaign.
This reporting period saw the major expense category shift from promotional items to newspaper ads with 42% of all campaign expenses going to these advertisements (a total of over $7,000 during this month-long period).
Download each of the campaign finance reports here.
As we near the end of a months-long election campaign that has been framed by a debate over debt and finances, the City of Kerrville reported today that the State Comptroller had issued the finance department a “Transparency Star” in the area of debt obligations. This program recognizes entities whose websites show visual and narrative detail on outstanding debt, tax-supported debt obligations, historical bond elections and more.
For the past two months, candidates for Place 1 and Place 2 respectively, George Baroody and Mario Garcia, have run advertisements and made statements that call into question the city’s transparency in the way the entity reports and discusses its debt obligations. For instance, in this advertisement run by Garcia on March 30, he takes issue with the way the city presented their debt obligations, and claimed that Baroody was the only person to point out this alleged flaw in reporting.
In each of their respective interviews with Kerrville United (found in the column to the right on this page) the candidates express their dismay at the way the city handles and presents information related to debt and funding methods to pay for the debt service. But the State Comptroller Glenn Hegar points out that:
By providing taxpayers with essential debt information in a variety of formats, the City of Kerrville has shown a true commitment to Texas taxpayers. This effort achieves the goals set by our Transparency Stars program. I am pleased to award the City of Kerrville a star for its accomplishments.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hagar
The City of Kerrville Finance Department, headed by Amy Dozier, has received multiple transparency and budget awards in years past.
Today Mario Garcia sat down with Aaron Yates of Kerrville United to discuss politics and issues pertaining to the 2019 city council election. The interview is presented in its entirety below.
Kerrville United has now broadcast interviews with all four city council candidates on the ballot in 2019. This is the first time that all declared candidates have participated with the interview opportunity, and we thank them for accepting our invitation.
Early voting continues this week, and Election Day is May 4.
Last Monday, the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for all four of our city council candidates. The videos have been posted by the Chamber, and are available to view below. Please note that they segmented the video into four parts, and each part is presented in order below.