Low voter turnout expected in District 6 special election

January 24, 2013 4:54:17 PM PST
A special election for the Texas Senate seat held by the late Sen. Mario Gallegos is just days away, but not many voters showed up for early voting.

Friends, acquaintances -- even a woman who claims to have been his mistress -- are running to replace Gallegos in District 6. Now, with just hours before the election, things have started to get heated.

One of the candidates claims she was scared by one of her competitors.

Call it the post-presidential election burnout and it affects only one state senate district. In the end, the new senator may be determined by a surprisingly small number of voters.

District 6 stretches from south Houston to the north side, but the East End is the heart of it. This Saturday, there's a special election to replace Gallegos, and turnout is expected to be very low. Case in point: District 6 resident Asalia Garcia doesn't plan to vote.

"This time around nobody's calling anybody, let's go vote and let's make a party of it, no," Garcia said.

Here are the numbers: nearly 285,000 residents in Senate District 6 are registered voters. In the presidential election, 48.5 percent of them cast ballots. More than 93,000 voters re-elected Gallegos, who died before the election.

In this special election, 8,245 early votes have been cast either in person or by mail-in ballots. And on this election day, KTRK political analyst, Dr. Richard Murray expects twice that many -- tops.

"That suggests we're only getting 15,000 people voting out of the 284,000 registered voters, an incredibly low turnout," Dr. Murray said.

There are eight candidates on the ballot, including two Republicans. The top two are Democratic candidates State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who also served on Houston City Council, and former county commissioner and city controller Sylvia Garcia. Saturday's election may be a preview of a runoff between the pair, and for that, too, Murray would expect to generate few voters.

"It makes this much more of an election among friends and neighbors and real supporters. That's why we're getting so few people voting," Murray said.

And then there's this...

"I was the girlfriend of Senator Gallegos till the day he died," candidate Susan Delagado told Viva Houston, which airs Sundays on ABC13.

Delagado says she had a relationship with Gallegos. On Wednesday night, she filed an affidavit with Houston police, claiming she felt threatened by Alvarado at a candidates forum several days ago. Delagado claims Alvarado whispered the words "watch out" to her.

"I didn't feel comfortable going to the podium and talk, that's how scared I got," she told Viva Houston.

A representative for the Alvarado campaign said he would not comment on what was called a ridiculous allegation, but perhaps, Dr. Murray says, "it's jazzed up this low-turnout election."

Polls open Saturday. Check the Harris County's voting website for a list of voting locations.

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