Pat Chisolm-Miller secured her position as the lone Democratic voice on the McLennan County Commissioners Court with a hard-fought victory Tuesday over D.L. Wilson, the Mart Republican and former Texas Department of Public Safety sergeant.
Chisolm-Miller won about 57 percent, or 6,016 votes, while Wilson won 43 percent, or 4,573 votes. Chisolm-Miller’s victory keeps Precinct 2 connected to the legacy of Lester Gibson, the ailing commissioner who is preparing to retire after 28 years. Chisolm-Miller has been Gibson’s administrative assistant for more than 22 years.
The race sparked a heated battle between urban voters in East Waco, largely supporting Chisolm-Miller, and rural voters in eastern McLennan County, who backed Wilson. Both are seen as community leaders who rallied their respective bases for this election.
Chisolm-Miller, who like Gibson is African-American, is the first woman to win the seat.
“I am extremely humbled,” Chisolm-Miller said. “That’s all I can think. I’m elated, I’m excited about the future, but I’m extremely humbled. We ran a good campaign, we knocked on doors, we made telephone calls, we tried to keep it positive, we kept it on the issues. And Precinct 2 appreciated that and they came out with their vote, and I’m just really excited to start serving them on Jan. 1.”
Chisolm-Miller’s campaign was characterized by her experience with county operations, from budgets to roads. She has also said Democrats need a voice in the upcoming redistricting.
Wilson ran a campaign calling for precinct unity and improvements to the roads, which he has called the worst in the county. He also criticized Gibson for his absences at commissioners’ court meetings. Gibson, who has said he has suffered health problems, has had sporadic attendance and has missed up to 22 consecutive meetings.
Wilson watched election results with about 500 supporters at Tradinghouse Bar and Grill. He blamed straight-ticket Democrat voters and support for U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the Texas Senate race for his defeat.
“All the analysis we worked with, we think the Beto votes and the straight-ticket Democratic votes is really what killed us,” he said.
He also alleged election violations at the city of Waco Multi-Purpose Center. Election judges of both parties at the site faced complaints this election, but officials from both sides have said no fault was found.
“It is just sad that we know she is going to be a spitting image of Lester Gibson, and we aren’t going to get any help out here in the rural areas,” Wilson said.
The Precinct 2 commissioner’s seat is the highest post still occupied by Democrats in a county that has shifted Republican over the last two decades.
Local election results Tuesday confirmed the lock that Republicans still have on the county. Of the 44,212 McLennan County residents who voted a straight-party ticket, 28,303 were Republicans, compared with 15,716 Democrats, and top statewide Republican candidates won more than 60 percent of the McLennan County votes.
Overall, 75,742 of 139,837 registered McLennan County voters turned out Tuesday, for a voter turnout rate of 54.16 percent. That compares with 59 percent in the 2016 presidential election, when 80,544 voted.
A total of 44,982 people, 35 percent of registered voters, cast a ballot in the November 2014 midterm election.