Just 11.4% of El Paso County’s registered voters participated in the March 1 primary election — which determined the Democratic and Republican nominees for the November general election in the majority of the races.

A total 56,192 of the county’s 494,152 registered voters cast ballots in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, according to El Paso County Elections Department unofficial final election results. That participation marks almost a 12,000-vote decline from the 2018 primary election, which had 15.5% turnout.

Though overall votes were down this year, the number of Republican primary votes was up almost 50%, or by 6,000 votes.

Republican voters were likely drawn to the top statewide races for governor and attorney general, as few local contested races fielded a Republican candidate.

Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott received about 66% of the vote statewide, defeating a handful of primary challengers, including former state Sen. Don Huffines and former Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West.

Abbott will face former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke in November. O’Rourke handily won the Democratic nomination Tuesday, with more than 90% of the vote statewide.

Current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush forced Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton into a runoff for the Republican nomination. The Democratic contest is also headed to a runoff between Rochelle Garza and either Joe Jaworski or Lee Merritt.

Workers wait for voters at the polling location at the El Paso County Courthouse on March 1. (Corrie Boudreaux)

Closer to home, a number of El Paso’s contested races will be determined by the May 24 runoff. These include:

  • The Democratic primary for Precinct 2 county commissioner: Former city of El Paso staffer Judy Gutierrez forced incumbent David Stout into a runoff, receiving 39.6% of the vote to his 43% — a difference of just 347 votes.
  • The Democratic and Republican primaries for Precinct 4 county commissioner: On the Democratic side, challenger Sergio Coronado received 38.2% of the vote while incumbent Carl Robinson had 34.8% — a 331-vote difference. In the Republican primary, Blanca Trout garnered 37.4% of the vote and David Adams 37.2% — separated by just 15 votes.
  • The Democratic primary for 327th District Court judge: Socorro Municipal Judge Monique Velarde Reyes received 31.3% of the vote to attorney Chris Daniel Anchondo’s 28.9%.
  • The Democratic primary for County Court at Law No. 3 judge: Attorney Melissa Baeza brought in 36.5% of the vote to attorney Monica Lupita Perez’s 33.2%.
  • The Democratic primary for Precinct 5 justice of the peace: Challenger Lucilla “Lucy” Najera again forced incumbent John Chatman into a runoff for the Lower Valley seat, as she did in 2018. Najera received 37.1% of the vote while Chatman received 33.9% — a difference of 162 votes.
  • The Democratic primary for State Board of Education: Former middle school science teacher Melissa Ortega garnered 46% of the vote while former special education paraprofessional Laura Márquez received 35.5%. Though El Paso Leadership Academy founder Omar Yanar received $200,000 from a pro-charter political action committee in the weeks leading up to the primary, it was not enough to get him into the runoff.

A race that was not close was that for Texas House District 79, which pitted two Democrats against each other. Claudia Ordaz Perez, who lost her District 76 during the redrawing of the state’s political maps, handily defeated incumbent state Rep. Art Fierro by 65.1% to 34.8%. There was no Republican candidate in this race.

Early voting for the May 24 primary runoff election begins May 16.

Cover photo: Political signs line the sidewalk outside the El Paso County courthouse on Election Day March 1. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Molly Smith has been a reporter for the El Paso Times and The (McAllen) Monitor. She’s covered education, criminal justice and local government. A Seattle native, she’s lived in Texas since 2014.