Precinct remains conservative stronghold

By Mary K. Schaffer December 5, 2012

In a county that voted 60 percent Democratic in the recent presidential elections, nearly two-thirds of Precinct 314 in West Austin voted Republican, with 65 percent voting for Mitt Romney and just 33 percent voting for Barack Obama.

In the past three elections, Precinct 314, which represents less than one percent of Travis County’s total registered voters, has voted consistently Republican, with about 20 to 30 percent more of the precinct voting Republican instead of Democratic.

Travis County has 635,300 registered voters, with 36 percent voting Republican in 2012, compared to 60 percent voting Democratic.

In 2004, 65 percent of the total registered voters in Precinct 314 voted for George W. Bush, whereas only 33 percent of the total voters in the precinct voted for John Kerry. In 2008, an election year that showed the lowest support for Republican candidates out of the last three elections, 59 percent of total voters voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. Forty percent voted for Obama and Biden. In every race in the 2012 elections in which a Republican ran against a Democrat, Republicans won carried the precinct. The same is true for both 2004 and 2008.

Nearly three-fourths of Precinct 314 voted straight party Republican in 2012, with 69 percent of voters voting Republican while 30 percent voted straight party Democratic. These numbers are consistent with voting results from 2004 and 2008.

The precinct remains a stronghold of conservatism in liberal Austin, representing an affluent demographic that includes Barton Creek. In fact, an invitation to a recent holiday party held at the Precinct 314 home of David A. Buttross II was posted online for “all those committed to the conservative cause.”  Buttross is a real estate broker who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Austin in 2009 and for Precinct 2 Travis County Commissioner in 2010.

Diane Fulton, former president of Austin Republican Women, was among those attending the party. Fulton, who lives in Precinct 314, voted for Romney in the 2012 elections.

“I voted for Romney because I totally believe in free enterprise and a limited government,” Fulton said. “Government should get out of the way.”

Party guest Jim Strickland, another Republican resident of Precinct 314, also voted for Romney.

“I voted for Romney because he’s a Republican,” Strickland said. “I believe in limited government, less taxes and promoting small businesses, and [Romney’s] views matched mine.”

Strickland, who ran unsuccessfully for Precinct 3 Travis County Commissioner in the 2012 Republican Primary, says the precinct is largely conservative because it is made up of businesspeople, who favor a limited government.

“[Precinct 314] is a very affluent area full of job creators,” Strickland said. “They want government to get out of the way and let them do what they do.”

A pocket of liberalism still exists in Precinct 314. Bill Keese, a “lifelong yellow dog Democrat,” voted for Obama.

“The Democratic Party…has always been a party of true democracy, representing the majority of the people in the country,” said Keese, who is president of his local homeowner’s association. “Their policies welcome change…and diversity.”

While conservatism might have climbed since 2008, voter turnout has fallen, with a 6 percent rise in Republican voting and a 5 percent drop in overall votes. Strickland said Republicans were not as excited about the elections this year, which might have caused the lower voter turnout.

“There was a general apathy this year,” Strickland said, “though Republicans had a very good candidate.”

In local elections, Precinct 314 voted for a Republican sheriff, county tax assessor-collector, commissioner and constable. Each district judge on the ballot was Democratic, and because each candidate ran uncontested, Precinct 314 voted for Democratic judges.

Some of the surrounding precincts tend to follow the same Republican voting trends, though the votes are closer than in Precinct 314. For example, 55 percent of Precinct 317‘s total voters voted straight party Republican, compared to Precinct 314’s 69 percent. In Precinct 330, 58 percent voted straight party Republican.

Though the largely conservative precinct operates in a largely liberal county, Strickland remains optimistic about Precinct 314‘s voice and reach.

“I do think my vote matters,” Strickland said. “When [Republicans] started in the precinct, it was even worse. If we keep working, keep espousing our beliefs, keep educating, we’ll be the majority one day.

The Republican precinct chair for Precinct 314, John W. Chambless, could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts to contact him. The Democratic precinct chair is vacant.

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