Tuesday’s General Election produced some exciting results, but probably none as tension-filled as the race for Jefferson County 172nd District Court judge.
For 25 years, the seat has been held by Donald Floyd, a Democrat. Through many elections, Floyd never faced an opponent in the Democratic stronghold of Jefferson County.
But this year, Republicans felt it was their best shot at turning the county red.
The county has historically voted Democratic in the otherwise Republican dominated state due to traditional support from the trade unions working in the local petrochemical industry. Many candidates have even run on the Dem ticket but with a conservative platform.
For the 172nd, the GOP had a strong candidate in Nederland attorney Rick Williams.
Williams had support of local businesses and professionals, as well as an endorsement from Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, a grass-roots group dedicated to fighting for fairness in our state’s legal system.
By Election Day, Williams had raised $67,395 and spent $56,000 on his campaign.
But to fight his first real challenger, Floyd too had large amounts of money in his coffers. Most of his came from Beaumont’s biggest law firms, which often have cases in Floyd’s civil court. Provost Umphrey, Reaud Morgan & Quinn and Wayne Reaud & Associates each donated $15,000 to Floyd’s campaign. By the end of the campaign, Floyd had raised $60,828 and spent at least $35,000.
On Election Day, it looked as if it was going to be a close race. As results came in Tuesday night, Floyd held the narrowest of leads at times. In early votes, Williams was behind by several thousand votes.
As the night wore on, the candidates each had 50 percent of the votes. By 11 p.m., with 102 out of 109 precincts reporting, Williams passed the 50 percent mark.
When The Southeast Texas Record went to press Tuesday night, around 11:30 p.m., based on 106 out of 109 precincts reporting it looked as if Williams was the winner, with 50.42 percent of the votes, with a margin of 355 votes over Floyd.
The last polling places to report were from the Beaumont Independent School District offices and the Theodore Johns Library location.
However, in a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment, Wednesday mornings’ numbers showed Floyd had squeaked ahead after all 109 precincts reported their results.
The results have not been finalized, but the unofficial results show that Floyd has 51.61 percent of the votes, receiving 27,178 of the 52,664 total votes cast. Williams received 25,486 votes, or 48.39 percent, a difference of only 1,692 votes.
A look at the precinct reporting map tells the story.
Williams dominated in rural parts of Jefferson County and what’s known as the “Mid-County” communities between Beaumont and Port Arthur. Floyd’s supporters were concentrated in the more densely populated cities. One large, mainly rural precinct 101, showed the two candidates in a tie.
Williams said at the end of the night, he too had read the results as a victory.
“We had popped the champagne, and everybody was going home,” Williams said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Then suddenly, sometime around midnight, we watched the last precincts turn blue.”
With results this close, the attorney general or secretary of state could get involved to make sure there are no irregularities, but Williams has not decided how he will proceed.
“It’s just too early to determine what action we might take,” Williams said.