Republicans Paul Workman and Holly Turner haven't shied from negative campaigning as they vie to get their party's nod to represent a Texas House district covering southwestern Travis County. The winner of Tuesday's runoff will face Democratic Rep. Valinda Bolton in November.
Workman has hammered Turner for being new to Austin and, of late, to partisan politics. In a TV ad that debuted April 3, the narrator says: "Turner's record? She ... failed to vote in five straight Republican primaries."
Workman's blast could cause runoff voters to think twice about supporting someone who hasn't been up to her elbows in the GOP; many view voting in primaries as essential to being a partisan activist. That said, it's a small club: According to the Texas Secretary of State, only 17 percent of 13 million registered voters cast primary ballots in the governor's race in March.
Has Turner has been missing in action in GOP primaries?
Offering back-up for Workman's claim, Eric Bearse, a Workman consultant, said the campaign checked Turner's voting history since 1996, when she turned 18, in Travis, Tarrant, Guadalupe, Bexar, Comal and McLennan counties. Bearse said the campaign also searched for voting records attached to Turner's maiden name, White, and her name from her first marriage.
Turner spokesman Craig Murphy countered that Turner voted in Travis County's March primary and the 2008 GOP primary in Tarrant County. He confirmed that she did not vote in the GOP's 2006 primary.
Seeking independent verification of Turner's voting history, we called election officials in five counties where Murphy said she's lived — Travis, Tarrant, Bexar, Comal, and Guadalupe counties — plus McLennan County, where Turner attended Baylor University in Waco from 1995 through 1999.
Murphy initially said Turner voted in three consecutive GOP primaries from 2000 to 2004, in Comal County. He said he didn't know if she voted in 1998, when she was registered in Guadalupe County. He said that since she was born in May 1978, she wasn't eligible to vote in the 1996 primary.
Murphy also said Comal County destroys its voter records two years after someone cancels their registration there, so Workman would have no record of her voting history on which to base his claim.
What we found: Monica Goodall, a supervisor for the Comal County tax assessor, said the office only destroys paper voting records; its electronic records remain intact. Through the electronic database, Goodall said, "we can see that she is currently registered in Travis County, but it would also show us if she was ever registered somewhere else."
At our request, the office staff checked its records several times using Turner's different names. They didn't find any record that she'd registered or voted in Comal County.
Jeff Smith of Austin, a Democratic political consultant whose clients have included Bolton, keeps records of Texas voter histories and came up with a slightly different result. He said Turner was registered in Comal County in March 2003, but was no longer registered as of November of that year. He said he found no record of Turner voting in a Comal County primary.
What about Guadalupe County?
Sylvia Marmolejo, a deputy clerk at that county's elections office, said Turner was twice registered there, in 1996-2001 and 2002-2006, but their records don't show she voted in any primaries.
According to election officials in Bexar and McLennan counties, Turner didn't vote there, either.
So, interviews indicate that Turner voted in the GOP primaries of 2008 and 2010, but didn't vote in the primaries of 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006 — five in a row.
As we finalized this article, Murphy backed off some of his earlier claims about Turner's voting record. Murphy said Turner thought that when she lived in New Braunfels — which crosses county lines — she was a resident of Comal County when, in fact, she was living in Guadalupe County. "I apologize for the rabbit chase on this," he said
Murphy said: "Holly Turner did not vote in the five primaries" claimed by Workman.
We rate Workman's statement as True.