Voters go to polls on Saturday

U.S. House special election, WISD bond referendum spice up ballot

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The new Ellis County Elections Office, located at 204 E. Jefferson St. in Waxahachie. Polling will take place Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for local city and school board elections at locations throughout Ellis County.

Normally, the early-May joint city and school elections are a staid affair, with local candidates vying genially for local office. The last two election cycles, however, have been anything but normal.

Last spring’s balloting was shoved to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the stakes in Ellis County are boosted by not only a major Waxahachie ISD bond referendum, but also a U.S. congressional special election made necessary by the Feb. 7 death of District 6 Republican Rep. Ron Wright.

Tuesday was the final day for early voting at election centers throughout Ellis County. Election Day voting begins Saturday at 7 a.m. and will continue until 7 p.m. A list of vote centers is available on the Ellis County Elections website.

A total of 23 candidates for the House seat will appear on the ballot for voters to decide among. The top two finishers, should no candidate receive more than 50 percent of the vote, will advance to a June 5 runoff. The Midlothian Chamber of Commerce, expecting a runoff, has scheduled a candidates’ luncheon for Wednesday, May 12 at the Midlothian Conference Center.

Among the candidates is Ellis County Republican Jake Ellzey, the freshman Texas House District 10 representative who was elected in November. But the race is hotly contested with funds from across the nation pouring into campaign coffers. Ellzey’s campaign, for example, reported more than $500,000 in contributions.

Susan Wright, the widow of the late congressman, has run a strong campaign, as well as former Trump administration officials Brian Harrison, Sery Kim and Mike Egan.

Dan Rodimer, a former professional wrestler and a GOP candidate for Congress in Nevada in 2018, has also been active on the campaign trail; and Republican Michael Wood has staked out territory as the anti-Trump candidate.

Several hopeful Democrats are also running in a district that has turned bluer in recent years, mostly because of changing voting patterns in the suburban Tarrant County portion of the district.

Among the more prominent Democratic candidates are Ellis County native Jana Sanchez, who was the party nominee for the seat in 2018, and Lydia Bean, a sociologist and a faculty research associate at the University of Texas-Arlington.

Local races

For Waxahachie ISD voters, the district is asking voters to approve the issuance of $127 million in bonds to address growth in the district. The proposed projects to be funded by the bonds include:

• Two new elementary schools to open in August 2022, one on land near the new Waxahachie High School and one on land in the Saddlebrook neighborhood;

• Renovations to the Coleman Junior High building (which formerly housed WHS in grades 10-12 before the new high school opened in 2018) to become a second comprehensive high school with a capacity of 1,200 students, making it a Class 4A high school;

• Expansion of the Hancock building to house Coleman Junior High;

• Expansion of WHS to house high school programs that are currently housed at Coleman;

• Expansion of the district’s current transportation facility;

• Renovations at the four oldest elementary campuses (Northside, Shackelford, Dunaway and Wilemon);

• Purchase of land for future school sites; and

• Large maintenance items for campuses throughout the district.

Three WISD board of trustees seats are up for a vote this year, but only one seat is being contested. Incumbent Place 3 trustee Kim Kriegel is being challenged by Amy Hedtke, a conservative activist and a perennial candidate for office.

WISD trustees John Rodgers and Melissa Starnater are unopposed for re-election to 3-year terms in Places 4 and 5 respectively.

On the Waxahachie City Council, two seats are contested as the city completes its transition to a place system that was approved in November 2019.

Incumbent Place 4 councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Lou Shipley is being challenged by Billie Wallace and Paul Christenson. Wallace is a first-time candidate for office, while Christenson unsuccessfully challenged Mayor David Hill last November.

Place 5 incumbent Charles “Chuck” Beatty is facing Travis M. Smith, a business consultant, and Darrin Robinson.

Across Ellis County, other city and school board races will be on the ballot, as well as several referenda.

Midlothian has placed a package of four propositions on its city ballot to address growth, including a new police station, a new combined city hall and library, a public recreation center and city street and road improvements, totaling more than $125 million if all four pass.

Ferris voters will decide whether to extend city councilmembers’ terms from 2 years to 3 years, and will consider two propositions: a $3.5 million bond for a new fire station, and a $7 million bond to install a fiber optic system to provide broadband internet service.

Ellis County Emergency Services District No. 5, which serves the Ferris area, is seeking to authorize a property tax increase not to exceed 10 cents per $100 valuation, and to adopt a local sales and use tax not to exceed 2 percent.

The city of Maypearl will also consider whether to renew a quarter-cent sales tax to fund maintenance of streets. The tax will expire after four years unless it is reauthorized.