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There is no shortage of issues inspiring Texas voters Tuesday, the last day to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.
[Election results: How Texas voted in the November 2022 midterms]
The state’s marquee race is between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The two candidates have spent millions of dollars to define the race on their terms.
On Tuesday, we asked voters across the state what issues mattered most to them. Texas Tribune reporters and partner newsrooms — Fort Worth Report, KERA and San Antonio Report — will provide updates throughout the day with stories from around the state.
A stroke couldn’t keep this veteran from voting on Election Day
LUFKIN — Slade Allison is still in pain from a stroke he suffered three weeks ago. But pain did not stop him from getting to the polls on the morning of Election Day to cast his ballot for Gov. Greg Abbott and a slate of Republican candidates.
“I would have someone bring me out in a gurney and push the buttons to vote if I had to,” Allison said after he cast his ballot at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Lufkin, the largest city in East Texas’ Angelina County. “We have to get the right party in there.”
Allison asked a friend to drive him to the polls because the stroke caused nerve damage in his left leg and has made it difficult for him to walk. The 72-year-old retired army veteran voted straight Republican and said he is most concerned with border security and the sanctity of the legal system.
Calling the Federal Bureau of Investigations “corrupt,” Allison said the Democratic Party has swung too far to the left.
“The country is in shambles,” Allison said. “I believe there’s no Democratic Party. There’s the Republican Party and the Communist Party.”
Although Texas has banned all abortions except to save the life of a pregnant person, Allison believes abortions are “running rampant” and must be stopped.
Allison was one of several Lufkin voters who said they are concerned about the economy and the lack of jobs in Lufkin. To boost the state’s economy, Allison said, the country should stop importing oil from foreign countries and instead invest more in the nation’s oil and gas industry. — Pooja Salhotra, The Texas Tribune
A local ballot question that would decriminalize marijuana got this Denton voter's attention
DENTON — Elizabeth Garcia, a third-year music student at the University of North Texas in Denton, said the importance of this election hit like a wave Monday night.
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t know how much the election was impacting me until, like, yesterday, when all my family members were discussing it and talking about it,” Garcia said.
Denton has a large student population, with just under 60,000 students enrolled across two universities: about 44,500 at UNT, and about 15,000 more at Texas Woman’s University. Students make up a huge share of the city’s 148,000 residents.
As the polls opened, a few people trickled into the UNT polling place at the Gateway Center. Garcia was among the first people to cast their ballots Tuesday morning. They voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke and gave reasons both policy-based and personal: fixing the state power grid, expanding health care for people with PTSD and overturning the state’s abortion ban.
But they also zeroed in on one key measure: marijuana legalization.
Texas legalized hemp and CBD in 2019, but THC — the chemical in the cannabis plant that gets you high — is still illegal. O’Rourke said he would push to change that.
Denton voters like Garcia also will weigh in on a marijuana decriminalization measure. Under Proposition B, the drug would still not be legalized — a move that can only be made at the state level — but the ordinance aims to eliminate citations and arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession in most cases.
Supporters say it would also stop Denton police from using the smell of pot as probable cause in a vehicle or home search and would end citations for drug paraphernalia.
Garcia said that would go a long way to helping her grandmother, who is dealing with her third cancer diagnosis. The stigma associated with marijuana use and its illegal status has kept her from using it therapeutically, Garcia said.
“At this point, like, we’ve just got to let her live. We can’t continue to be giving her all these treatments and be putting her through all this suffering,” Garcia said. “So if that stigma from marijuana was removed, maybe my grandma would be more eager to jump on that, I guess, ‘recreational’ use.” — Jacob Wells, KERA
San Antonio man hopes for even a “small change” to abortion access
SAN ANTONIO — As he stood in line behind eight people, Pedro Olivarez thought of his 2-month-old daughter Emilia and let his mind travel forward in time to imagine her as a young woman.
“When she’s older, she should have the right to do what she wants with her body,” Olivarez said after walking out of the polling place Tuesday. “It’s common sense.”
Olivarez, 26, said baby Emilia was his driving motivation to get to the polls 10 minutes before they opened. The new father voted at Las Palmas Library on San Antonio’s West Side, a traditionally Democratic area that has been the focus of Republican efforts to sway Hispanic voters by emphasizing the party’s traditional values.
A consistent voter, Olivarez said he cast his votes for Democrats up and down the ballot as usual, driven more by interest in statewide races and issues than in local ones.
While his family members voted early, Olivarez chose to wait until Election Day. And Texas’ recent moves to end abortion rights were a motivating factor for him.
“I’ll take anything, even if it’s a small change, to push Texas in the right way to have the rights for women that they need that they don’t have now,” he said. “Any small stride is a win in my book.”
While no candidates knocked on his door to campaign, Olivarez said he received a variety of flyers in his mailbox from candidates whose names he said he couldn’t remember.
After he voted, Olivarez walked toward a growing crowd awaiting the arrival of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke. When he arrived, Olivarez stood by to listen and made a video recording of O’Rourke on his iPhone. — Raquel Torres, San Antonio Report
Lufkin mom wants safer schools after Uvalde shooting
LUFKIN — When Liliana Ayala voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke, she felt as if she had cast a ballot on behalf of her entire family. In a sense, she had.
Born in Mexico and raised in Lufkin, Ayala is the only one among her parents and sister who holds U.S. citizenship and therefore the legal right to vote. Ayala’s partner, though legally able to vote, chooses not to. It’s an attitude that Ayala said is shared among many of her friends, too.
“They just feel like their vote doesn’t matter,” said Ayala, 28. “They’ve always felt that way.”
The young mother, who has another baby on the way, is most worried about guns in schools. Ever since May 24, when a gunman fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Ayala has felt anxious about the safety of her 4-year-old son.
“Shootings in schools should not happen,” Ayala said. Crying, she used the back of her hand to wipe away tears.
“I don’t want to feel like I have to drop off my kid, and there’s a chance he could get shot that day,” she said.
Ayala is six months pregnant, and the pregnancy, like her first one, is considered high risk. She quit her job as a paraprofessional at Garrett Primary School to take care of her health and to visit her doctor in Nacogdoches each week. — Pooja Salhotra, The Texas Tribune
A San Antonio publisher split her ticket
SAN ANTONIO — Gigi Hughes was 6 when she saw her grandmother get arrested for attempting to vote. That was during the 1960s in Memphis, Tennessee, when Black people were harassed, evicted or arrested if they tried to vote.
“That was the first time I couldn’t run to my grandmother,” Hughes said. “I remember my grandmother looking at my grandfather and saying, ‘Just meet us at the jail.’”
Because of that experience, she has never taken voting rights for granted.
Now 63 and publisher of a local newspaper, the San Antonio Herald News, Hughes said she has voted in every election since 1976. And she requires her three adult children to show her their “I voted” stickers, too.
On Tuesday, Hughes cast her ballot at the Claude Black Community Center on San Antonio’s East Side at 9 a.m. with a friend.
In this election, immigration and social issues were Hughes’ main priorities when casting her vote. She said she voted for Republicans for statewide offices and for Democrats in local races. Hughes’ faith underpins her political beliefs, causing her to lean Republican, but her community connections led her to support local Democrats, such as Peter Sakai, who is running for Bexar County judge, and state District Judge Stephanie Boyd.
“I don’t like what’s going on at the border. I think everybody that comes to the country should be treated with dignity and respect,” she said, adding that more law enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border is necessary to stop human trafficking and smuggling of drugs like fentanyl.
Driven by her religious values, Hughes said she is an opponent of abortion and does not support same-sex marriage and expanding rights for transgender people.
“There aren’t [various] genders,” she said. — Raquel Torres, San Antonio Report
Once a nonvoter, this Lubbock business owner and mom is engaged
LUBBOCK — Katie Joiner had two children in the last few years. When she cast her vote Tuesday in downtown Lubbock, she had them in mind.
“I’m really looking into the future this year, especially with things like choice,” Joiner said outside Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock. “Choice is something I’ve become more empathetic with. I know what it’s like to have kids.”
Joiner is a 31-year-old business owner in Lubbock, but she didn’t vote until the 2020 election. When she was younger, Joiner wasn’t in tune with the political landscape and didn’t care. That’s not the case now.
“As I’ve gotten older and learned that we actually are affected by who’s in leadership in our country, that’s perked my ears up,” Joiner said. “I’m more aware and excited to learn about what’s going on. I care enough to vote and do believe my vote matters.”
Joiner added, “I’m looking for leaders who will be more proactive on things like gun control and choice in a way that works for Texas.”
Joiner comes from a hunting family, and her husband still hunts, so she believes in responsible gun ownership. After seeing mass shootings over the years, though, she now wants more steps in place before someone can buy a gun.
“Seeing how shootings over the years have transpired has changed how I feel about who can buy a gun and how easy it is to buy a gun,” Joiner said. “I don’t think it would hurt us. I’m not saying I want the government to take away our guns, but I think we could benefit from a few more steps.” — Jayme Lozano, The Texas Tribune
Living with ALS, this Lufkin voter navigates the ballot box
LUFKIN — Sarah Rosenzweig tried to pull into the parking lot of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Election Day, but a sharp dip in the road made it nearly impossible for her accessible van to access a parking spot.
Once she finally parked and made it inside the polling place, Rosenzweig, who uses a wheelchair, found it difficult to read the screen. She said the screens were angled for a person standing. Sitting in her wheelchair, she used her hand to block the glare and read her ballot.
“I didn’t know it would be so problematic,” said Rosenzweig, 43.
Rosenzweig was born and raised in Lufkin and was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, about 10 years ago. The former public school music teacher votes in every election, even if she has to overcome hurdles at a polling place.
“Everyone at the voting location was friendly and helpful,” she said. “‘I’ve had workers say, ‘I'll push the screen and read it to you.’ But it should be that I am able to do it myself.”
A registered Democrat, Rosenzweig said she is most worried about equal rights, including the right to an abortion.
Texas’ near-total abortion ban went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion this summer. The state’s ban is among the most stringent in the nation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The procedure is allowed only to save the life of the pregnant person.
“If it doesn’t personally affect you and your body and your family in that exact instance, I’m not sure why you feel the need to control that,” Rosenzweig said.
“We are founded on religious freedom and being able to be the person you are, yet if you don’t conform to this one view, you’re going to be screwed,” Rosenzweig said. “That seems to be taking over in a horrifying way.” — Pooja Salhotra, The Texas Tribune
Voting along party lines is “lazy,” South Texas voter says
MISSION — Diana Cantu, 61, entered the voting booth at the Mission Boys and Girls Club in South Texas on Tuesday certain of one thing: She wasn’t going to vote along party lines.
“I don’t vote a straight ticket,” said Cantu, a resident of this border town. “Voting a straight ticket is lazy.”
Cantu said while it means doing a lot of “homework,” voters should read up on the backgrounds of candidates in the state. She said she votes strictly on the background of the candidate and not because of their party affiliation.
While she did not want to reveal whom she voted for, she was particularly focused on the Supreme Court races in the state.
She was also concerned about returning to a sense of civility in American politics and getting rid of the “gang mentality” that exists in the political system. She also said that border security, abortion and government ethics are some of the most important issues to her as a voter.
“There is a clear lapse. … There is dishonesty that is now normalcy,” Cantu said. “That has to stop.” — Stephen Neukam, The Texas Tribune
$200 million road question more important than statewide issues, Lubbock voter says
LUBBOCK — While there has been widespread attention on statewide races, some in Lubbock are focused on the local issues on the ballot.
Lubbock voters will have the choice to approve a $200 million bond to fund major street improvements over 22 miles of roadway. Last year, voters rejected the original proposed bond — $174.5 million to cover 11 miles of roadway.
“I think it’s important to vote for city growth, specifically the transportation and improvement bond for city streets,” Kyle Jacobson said outside Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock. “I know there’s a lot of statewide races as well as locally, but the road one was one of the most important items on the ballot.”
Jacobson was voting during a quick break from his job in downtown Lubbock. He said he votes every election and likes to be informed on the choices, but he hopes voters are putting thought into each item on the ballot.
“I just want people to pay attention to issues and candidates up and down the ballot,” Jacobson said. “The races usually at the top command most attention, but there are so many important local races, too.” — Jayme Lozano, The Texas Tribune
A Fort Worth Republican hopes the state’s political divide closes
FORT WORTH — Ashlyn Lawson usually votes early, but she didn’t get the chance to this year. Her son, James Hobbs, didn’t have school on Election Day, so she brought him along to the polls so he could learn the ropes of voting.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to show him what voting is actually like, so he tagged along with me,” Lawson, 35, said outside of the Southside Community Center in east Fort Worth.
James, 8, wore the classic oval-shaped “I voted” sticker on his shirt on the way out of the center.
As a small-business owner and Republican, Lawson was motivated to vote to ensure she feels supported by her local government representatives. She is the Southlake and Grapevine editor for The Scout Guide, a publication that highlights independently owned businesses and business owners.
“National issues are important to me, but these local elections are really important because I’m a local business owner that supports local businesses,” she said.
Her children’s future and fulfilling her American duty were other important factors in casting her vote.
“I hope my family can stay here long term, and if we want to do that, we need to make sure not only our city but our state goes in the direction we want,” said Lawson, who has lived in Fort Worth for seven years.
She hopes the stark political divide between Republicans and Democrats will close.
“We live in such a great state,” Lawson said. “We can work together to fix these issues. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, I just hope people can be kind to one another.” — Izzy Acheson, Fort Worth Report
Uvalde shooting, not immigration, sends South Texas voter to ballot box
MISSION — Leo Cuervo was driven to the polls by the Uvalde school shooting that left 21 dead at Robb Elementary on May 24.
“The Uvalde shooting was horrible and should never happen,” said Cuervo, 30. “Obviously there is a problem here. We have to deal with it. The perfect way to do that is to vote.”
Cuervo, who works in Los Angeles in the entertainment industry but goes back and forth from Mission, where his family also lives, said he voted for Democrats Beto O’Rourke for governor and Michelle Vallejo for Texas’ 15th Congressional District.
He said he thinks many voters in the Rio Grande Valley are worried about immigration, but he said that isn’t an issue that is big for him. Instead, he zeroed in on what he thinks Texas lawmakers should do to curb gun violence in the state. That includes limiting access to semi-automatic weapons.
“There’s a difference between a hunting rifle and an automatic gun that is meant to kill people,” Cuervo said. “Who needs to have a gun that kills people in the military in their house?” — Stephen Neukam, The Texas Tribune
Voter hopes Black community will be safer after election
FORT WORTH — Kenneth Finley came out to the polls to bring change to his community. He has voted in every election he can remember, and this Election Day was no different. He favors no political party but votes as an individual.
“I’ve been planning on coming, and now I finally get to do it,” Finley said outside of the Southside Community Center in East Fort Worth. “I’m ready for two things: I’m ready for a new governor, and I’m ready to see some change in my community.”
The 66-year-old is retired and has lived in Fort Worth nearly his entire life. The safety of the Black community and gun law reform were the main drivers behind Finley’s decisions at the polls.
“We’ve got military-style rifles out on the streets with these gun laws,” Finley said. “It’s dangerous, and something has got to change.”
For Finley, this year’s election is an opportunity to decrease violence in Black communities nationwide.
Finley hopes that at the end of this election, more attention will be paid to marginalized communities across the city and state.
While national issues play a role in his vote, Finley said he is more focused on local issues and local leaders due to the direct impact on his community.
“Our community deserves better than what has been offered to us from the current people in power,” Finley said. — Izzy Acheson, Fort Worth Report
In central Texas, this voter wants religion back in schools
GEORGETOWN — Jacqlyn Molz, 26, pushed her 10-month-old daughter’s stroller into the polling station at the Williamson County Annex. With one hand on the stroller and one hand on the voting screen, Molz cast her ballot thinking about her family’s legacy.
The Molz family has been in Georgetown for the last five years. They moved here from Pennsylvania for work. Demonstrating civic duty, especially consistent voting, for her children has been important for Molz.
“We were both kind of raised where our parents weren’t super involved,” Molz said. “We didn’t have the conversations around the table, but we want to leave the legacy here that it’s our civic duty to vote and to be informed, and it’s okay to have different views even.”
Harper Molz held her mother’s “I Voted” sticker in an infant’s vice grip, occasionally tasting the oblong sticker’s glue. While Harper isn’t of age to attend school yet, her mother’s main concern in the polls today was religion in schools.
“Getting God back in schools is a big piece for us,” Molz said. “But I don’t think that that’s gonna be. … It’s a journey, for sure.”
The Molz family are Christians and active in their local church.
Molz works full time as a corporate recruiter at an accounting firm. Her husband recently left the Army and was stationed at Fort Hood, soon to be renamed Fort Cavazos, in Killeen.
To prepare for her elections today, Molz said she kept informed through local news and a friend whose viewpoints she valued and respected. “We have fun conversations as a group as a small church group,” Molz said. — Allison P. Erickson
Republicans don’t have best interest of women at heart, South Texas voter says
WESLACO — Krys Palomino said she was driven to vote this year after seeing abortion access disappear in Texas. Republicans such as Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, she felt, didn’t have the best interest of women’s care at heart.
“I feel like Greg and Mayra are just too extreme,” said Palomino, adding that she had an abortion after the state’s six-week abortion law went into effect last year.
Those aren’t the only issues that drove her out to vote this year. Palomino is a lifelong Democrat and was also deeply dissatisfied with the Abbott administration’s handling of the power grid. She has also noticed a major uptick in ads from both parties this year, which she hopes will add more pressure on younger people to vote. Both parties have been investing heavily this year in the region, with Republicans hoping to flip a longtime Democratic region and Democrats eagerly defending their turf.
“Everything from social media to YouTube is nothing but ads, ads, ads,” she said. — Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune
“God, the family and country” are paramount to this Republican voter
MERCEDES — Salvador Ramirez was a longtime Democrat. But after growing frustrated with U.S. border policy and changing curriculum in schools, he made the switch to the Republican Party and voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.
He hasn’t looked back.
“It is important to have good moral values, ethical values. God, the family and country,” Ramirez said at the Mercedes Civic Center voting location.
He echoed the “God, Family, Country” campaign slogan of Republican U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, whom he voted for and admired for keeping faith and her Christian morals central in her work. Republicans are optimistic their appeal to more traditional family values will resonate with more socially conservative voters in the Rio Grande Valley. Democrats, they say, have drifted from the everyday concerns of working Americans and taken the Hispanic voters in the area for granted.
Ramirez said he could see the Republican strategy working. He cites rising costs of living and a lack of Democratic messaging on how to proceed with securing the border and reforming immigration policy as driving more voters like him to the other side of the aisle.
“They noticed that Republicans offer us the opportunity to defend life, to protect our borders, and that the situation with the economy right now is difficult,” Ramirez said.
But the competitive fever that has marked this year’s cycle as Republicans try to insert themselves into the Rio Grande Valley has been, he said, “annoying.” — Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune
Nation has gone to “heck in a handbasket,” says voter
GEORGETOWN — After a 45-minute wait in line at the lunch rush hour in Georgetown, grandparents Sherman and Brenda Brand smiled as they walked out of their polling location. Brenda, 71, is recovering from surgery and needed a walker to support her at the polls. But to her, standing to wait was not an issue.
“It’s a blessing, actually,” Brenda said. “We pray, we say Lord, please guide us in this country, for heaven’s sakes. It’s going to heck in a handbasket.”
The Brands attend City View Bible Church and said they have been praying for God’s guidance on issues like inflation, the state of the economy, rising home prices and the “things happening in schools.”
Sherman, a 76-year-old former Vietnam War combat medic, cited several laments that he felt pulled him into the voting booth. He said gender-affirming care for young people was a “big mistake.”
Texas Republicans have increasingly made health care for young trans people a wedge issue.
The Brands described themselves as strong believers, Christians, fearful that the country had turned its back on God over the past two generations. The solution: spiritual revival. Sherman said students should be allowed to pray in public spaces and that collectively, we need to “know and love thy neighbor.” — Allison P. Erickson, The Texas Tribune
Texas laws don’t reflect Black voters, Fort Worth voter thinks
FORT WORTH — Alexandrea Burston doesn’t know if she will have kids, but she knows that decision should be her own.
A lifelong Fort Worth resident, Burston, 25, works as an administrator for a nonprofit in the Southside Community Center in East Fort Worth that doubled as a Tarrant County polling location. Burston, a Democrat, chose to vote on Election Day because the polls were at her place of work.
“It didn’t matter when I voted, as long as I voted,” Burston said on her way out of the community center. “It’s really important.”
Burston’s candidate choices were influenced by the overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year.
“Right now, the laws are not meant for me, they’re not meant for anyone who looks like me or identifies as a female like me,” she said.
She is eager for a change in Texas leadership that would shape policies to better reflect the views of her generation.
“We need a new point of view when it comes to the law,” Burston said. “A lot of rules have been meant for a certain type of people, and that’s not the majority anymore.”
Burston’s passion for politics was instilled by her parents, who made voting a priority in the home. Her love of Fort Worth drives her desire to see political change in her hometown.
“I love my city. I love Fort Worth so much,” she said. “Go out and vote — people have fought to give you that voice, no matter where you come from.” — Izzy Acheson, Fort Worth Report
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