The nearly 54-40% Bexar County vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump seemed like a minor footnote as the clock struck midnight and the Republican outlier drew within a handful of electoral votes of the presidency in what historians surely will judge as the most unlikely and unsettling presidential victory in contemporary history.
By 1:45 a.m. chanting crowds at the New York Hilton were welcoming the Trump entourage as it arrived and Trump took the stage to claim victory. Trump’s dramatic entrance was delayed by a call from Clinton conceding defeat, although her campaign manager John Podesta had said earlier she would not speak publicly in the early hours of Wednesday.
She was expected to appear Wednesday morning to make her concessions public.
Trump’s rambling early morning speech sounded like a note of reconciliation and healing, a proposition that would test the skills of the most politically astute leader. More likely, morning will bring confirmation of the deep divide between Tuesday’s winners and losers.
It was an extraordinary Election Night unlike any other in memory. Political leaders in both parties watched with a mix of disbelief and shock as Trump steadily built an electoral and narrow popular vote lead over Clinton, first securing red-state America and then seizing blue states she and Democratic Party leaders once took for granted.
The popular vote lead waned by Wednesday morning. The electoral lead did not. Trump won 2709 electoral votes to 218 for Clinton, and Republicans conceded a single seat in the U.S. Senate to maintain a 51-seat majority, while continuing to control the House by a 236-191 margin.
In a spectacular victory over once-hopeful Democrats, Trump and the Republicans now control two of the three branches of the federal government and are poised to shape the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps for generations. With many statehouses, including Texas, in the party’s control, the electorate has given Republicans more political control and power than at any other time in recent history.
As midnight passed and votes slowly rolled in across Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, and the counting stretched into the first hour of Wednesday, it became evident that an upset of almost indescribable fashion would greet Americans with the new day dawning.
Few of us can imagine exactly what that day will bring in terms of Trump taking the oath as the 45th president of the United States, but by Wednesday morning Pres. Obama had invited Trump to meet at the White House to discus the transition.
How Trump will govern, or how his redefinition of governance will reverberate through a deeply divided and anxious society and around the world remains to be seen. If there is one thing Trump and Clinton voters shared Tuesday night, it is a belief they no longer recognize the country and political system they once considered the model for the rest of the world.
Asian financial markets were in turmoil as the prospect of a Trump presidency swept across time zones and the globe. Dow Jones futures were down by 800 points before recovering.
Trump defied all polls and prognosticators, building an early electoral lead over Clinton, winning by more than 10 points in Ohio, prevailing in Florida and North Carolina, and building narrow but durable leads in Wisconsin, Michigan, and, Pennsylvania.
Trump was badly outspent by Clinton, shunned coast to coast by Republican Party leaders, often ridiculed for his unrestrained behavior, and repudiated for his insensitive pronouncements targeting Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, women, and others. Yet on Tuesday he appeared to ride a tsunami of anti-establishment, white and working-class anger that gave him an insurmountable lead in both the electoral and popular vote.
The thrice-married real estate baron turned casino owner turned reality host turned national politician was badly underestimated by everyone: his party, the pundits, the pollsters, and the mainstream media. He had never sought political or elected office, yet on his first try, he has won the White House.
One measure of the disconnect: Virtually every U.S. daily newspaper endorsed Clinton, a measure apparently of no interest or importance to the majority of the nation’s voters. The Crusader, the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan, was one of the few newspapers to support Trump. In an election that was all about race and class, that also did not bother Trump voters.
Locally in Bexar County, Clinton did very well, as she did in Harris, Dallas, and Travis counties, trailing Trump only in Tarrant County. With 100% of the Bexar County vote tallied, the Clinton-Kaine ticket locally received 319,191 votes versus 240,161 for the Trump-Pence ticket, a 13% advantage for the Democrats. Less than 6% of the vote went to third-party candidates.
Yet Clinton lost Texas and lost it soundly. With nearly 90% of the votes counted statewide, Trump held a definitive 52-44% advantage, defying Democrats who had hoped for a more narrow gap.
Clinton’s strong showing in San Antonio offered little solace to party leaders here who melted away from headquarters and planned victory parties as Trump bulldozed Clinton across the Midwest and Southeast. Clinton’s win in vote-rich California briefly gave her the electoral lead shortly after 10 p.m., but with the loss of Florida, momentum swung back to Trump and there it stayed. By 11:30 p.m. the once unimaginable seemed inevitable.
“It’s obvious to me that two years from now Texas will be a purple state,” State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) had told reporters early in the evening as he watched statewide returns while cruising to easy re-election in his own district. “If we have a Texas candidate running head-to-head with a Republican then we could flip Texas. It’s obvious that people are rejecting Trump.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), interviewed at the Democratic Party headquarters shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. CST, agreed.
“She (Clinton) is running very strong in Texas,” Castro said. “Texans reject the Trump campaign. It was built around disrespect for Hispanics, veterans, and women. That’s not the Texas way. It’s incumbent upon Texans to build upon the momentum we have.”
Neither Democratic officeholder, to be fair, had any sense of what lay on the electoral horizon. No one did, certainly not the Republican or Democratic leadership, nor the Trump and Clinton campaigns. By the time Trump had seized control of the night, Democratic party leaders were nowhere to be found for comment.
Trump’s solid lead in Texas showed that a Democratic candidate, even winning numbers all but a few of the state’s cities, can still be beaten soundly by rural and suburban votes who consistently favor Republican candidates by wide margins.
Voters interviewed as they exited the polls Tuesday told Rivard Report reporters that the same widespread dissatisfaction with Clinton and Trump expressed nationally also was felt here, with neither side feeling that their candidate made a positive showing during the campaign.
“I feel confident, but a little nervous I guess,” said Crystal Landrum, 31, an Eastside resident who voted for Republican nominee Donald Trump. “I think we are in for a disaster, (but) I’m hopeful.”
Bexar County voters had favored the winning presidential candidate in every election dating back to 1968, a remarkable streak that was broken Tuesday night.
Incumbent U.S. Rep Will Hurd (R-Texas), a Republican facing a tough re-election bid in the sprawling and highly competitive 23rd Congressional District and seemingly weighed down by the Trump presence on the South Texas ballot, held a firm 48.7-44.4% lead over Democratic challenger Pete Gallego with 95% of the district vote counted.
Hurd held a 12.5% lead in Bexar County. Gallego, an Alpine native, was favored to show strongly along the border and in West Texas. It proved impossible, in the end, to find enough of those votes to catch Hurd.
“You put us in a great position to win this thing, but as you all know, it’ll be a long night tonight,” Hurd told the crowd at the Eilan Hotel in northwest San Antonio before midnight. He amended that as more than 90% of the votes had been counted.
“Well, it wasn’t as late of a night as we all thought,” he joked at the beginning of his victory speech. “We won this thing because of y’alls hard work, because y’all believe that we could win. We won this thing because y’all work harder, because y’all care, because this district recognizes that a lot more work needs to be done. … Our work has just begun, we are just getting started. And I will continue to need all of your support over these next few years.”
Fair Oaks resident and lifelong Republican Sue Masters said she thought the race would be very close, despite Hurd’s early lead.
“He (Hurd) came to my front door when he was running last time and spent a good half hour with my husband and me,” Masters said. “My husband told me before he passed away recently to make sure I voted for him this time.”
Gallego referred to his faith in his concession speech.
“As a man of faith I have to understand that hands much larger than mine are directing today’s events,” he said. “I know that this evening there is a lot of concern and trepidation, but one thing I’ve learned: we’re a resilient nation. The sun rises tomorrow, it’s a new day and we begin putting one foot in front of the other as we have every other day for generations and generations in the past, and as I know we will for generations to come.”
In competitive local races for seats in the Texas Legislature, two incumbent Republicans were voted out of office. Incumbent Rick Galindo (R-117) fell to Democratic challenger Philip Cortez, 51-48.5%. Incumbent John Lujan (R-118) was overwhelmed by Democrat Tomas Uresti, 55-44.8%.
“At 54%, we’re calling it a win,” Tomas Uresti said. “Usually early returns stay the same in this case. To be able to go the House to work side by side (with) my brother, Sen. Uresti, is an honor and an advantage. We’re gonna stick to our guns on taking care of veterans, increasing school funding, and reforming CPS. I’m just excited to be working in Austin for everyone.”
Democratic State Sens. Carlos Uresti (D-19) and Menéndez (D-26) both dominated their largely unknown challengers. Uresti received 60% of the vote, while Menéndez received 80%.
Democrat Barbara Gervin-Hawkins scored an unprecedented win over special election incumbent Laura Thompson (I-122) by a 55% landslide.
“I’m really excited about it,” Gervin-Hawkins said about the results. “I’m humbled by people supporting me at this level, particularly during early vote.”
In an unexpected upset, Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, the Republican candidate and a retired two-star U.S. Air force general, was surpassed by Democratic challenger Javier Salazar, a longtime San Antonio police officer, by less than a single percentage point. The final vote count was 278,102 to 273,914, with Salazar prevailing 47.81% to 47.09%. A mere 5% of the vote went to a pair of third-party candidates.
With 99% of vote counted, Pamerleau was down by nearly 4,000 votes. She declined to concede, promising to”make a further statement tomorrow.”
The sheriff appeared to hold out hope for victory, saying that there were still votes that needed to be counted.
“Every one of us is proud of how far this agency has come and that will put Bexar County and the Bexar County Sheriff’s office so much further ahead in terms of providing public safety to this community,” Pamerleau said. “We will continue that through the rest of my term.”
Meanwhile, attendees at the Salazar watch party at the downtown Cadillac Bar shouted, “There’s a new sheriff in town!”
The Democratic challenger eventually slipped into a “Sheriff Salazar” T-shirt before thanking supporters, campaign heads, and family members.
“We’re gonna work with our community and with outside law enforcement agencies to make Bexar County a safer place to live, work, and play,” Salazar said. “The voters have spoken loud and clear and it is with great pleasure that I humbly accept my new role as your next Bexar County Sheriff.”
Clinton’s strong showing in Bexar County appeared to carry Democratic judicial candidates to a uniformly strong showing, even against well-regarded incumbent Republican judges.
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Two Bexar County Commissioners, Democrat Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez in Precinct No. 1, and Republican Kevin Wolff in Precinct No. 3, enjoyed early evening victories, each winning more than 60% of the vote against largely unknown challengers.
Voters demonstrated strong support for a $450 million bond and a tax increase in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) by a 70-30% margin, a reflection of growing community support for the district’s board and Superintendent Pedro Martinez.
Voters in the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD and Somerset ISD also approved bonds by 2-1 margins.
A recall election of Windcrest City Councilwoman Kim Wright was supported by 70% of the municipality’s voters.
The number of people voting early this year reached record levels, reflecting robust population growth in the county and an inclination on the part of more and more voters to act before Election Day.
A total of 475,389 people – 45% of Bexar County’s registered voters – cast ballots early or by mail, five points higher than in 2012, and two points higher than 2008.
“I think it (voting trend) shifted,” said Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen. “We obviously saw much higher early voting. And, you know, it was a great goal. I wanted us to break 600,000 voters for the first time in Bexar County. And, who knows, we’ll see many people are still out there. You know, we’re fairly close to that. Again, we’re showing here, 475,000 (early voters) and we know we’ve already had 100,000 people vote, so that’s 575,000. So we just need a little bit more.”
In the end, an encouraging 596, 150 voters went to the polls, 57.69% of the county’s 1,033,351 registered voters. There were 63 polling locations still open at 8:15 p.m., 75 minutes after the scheduled closing of the polls. Sheriff’s deputies were called to two polling locations this morning because of “boisterous campaigners.”
Callanen said the only other problem of the day came with people showing up to vote who had not registered.
“There was a lot of anger today,” Callanen said. “We had a lot of people that showed up at the polls that were not registered to vote that had to fill in provisional ballots.
“The judges are starting to call in because they’re starting to take a breather, you know,” she added, more than 90 minutes after the scheduled close of the polls at 7 p.m. They’re telling us that they had a stressful day, and that the main thing is that the voters are not understanding that they had to register to vote.”
The numbers likely will be remembered only by a few. The election will go down in history as the night Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and everybody wondered what it would come to mean.