With the spring primary elections for McLennan county looming, the republican candidates are not concerned about democratic opponents, but opponents from their own party. For context, of the 42 positions opened to partisan candidates in 2014, only four democrats were elected — two of them uncontested.
Parnell Mcnamara (R), the current sheriff for McLennan county, is one of three running for sheriff under the republican ticket. Also running for the position are Willie Tompkins and Waco police Sgt. Patrick Swanton.
The GOP headquarters for McLennan county does not endorse candidates until after the spring primaries. First-time candidates face extra pressure when running against incumbents.
“I think the statistic is like 96 percent reelection rate for incumbents,” Ralph Patterson, former GOP chairman of McLennan county said in an interview prior to declaring his campaign for Waco’s congressional seat.
Tompkins, who has 17 years of law enforcement experience, will be facing this challenge.
“I’d like to just get out and meet the people of McLennan County so I can shake hands with them and tell them what I am all about,” Tompkins said. He also hopes to get more news coverage and hold rallies to gain support.
But the candidates are not alone in getting their names out. Little Rock junior Sara Grove is the former co-chairwoman of College Republicans at Baylor, and tried to advance the campaigns of all candidates.
“We as a club cannot go volunteer for one particular person,” Grove said. “But I can give the opportunity to the members for … all the candidates equally.”
Patterson approached his advocacy in a similar manner.
“My job as county chairman is to get people elected,” Patterson said. For both the GOP headquarters and College Republicans, it would be counterproductive to cast a single candidate in a better light than the rest prior to the primaries.
“The real battle is against the democrats,” Patterson said.
However, the general election is not until November 8, and some candidates, like Tompkins, are having to establish themselves as republicans before they can be considered for nomination.
“Texas is a red state,” Tompkins said, “and there hasn’t been very many democratic people put in office. So I felt I should go with the masses that would probably give me a better chance with my qualifications, my education, and my experience.”
Seventy percent of Mclennan’s vote for governor went to Greg Abbott in 2014. Though the GOP has a strong presence in the county, Patterson is not entirely satisfied.
“Our republicans in McLennan County have done a pretty good job of being conservative,” Patterson said. “We certainly would like for them to be more conservative sometimes.”
Patterson advised for new voters to vote entirely down the republican line, rather than choosing a democrat here or an independent there.
“I hope that the club can help to turn Mclennan county totally red in the next few years and the next few elections,” Grove said. “We have had a great start on that already.”
Grove hoped to have left McLennan County with a larger number of republican officials in office. If that was her goal, the club still has those four democratic seats to fill.