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Election Blog: Susan Hawk Defeats Craig Watkins In Dallas County DA Race; Denton Bans Fracking

The headlines from Election Day: Denton has banned fracking; Susan Hawk is the next Dallas County district attorney; Dallas City Council members get a pay raise; statewide, it's a Republican sweep; and more.

Wednesday election headlines: Denton has banned fracking -- the ban passed by a significant margin. Susan Hawk defeated incumbent Craig Watkins in the Dallas County district attorney's race -- it was a close contest.Incumbent Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins easily defeated Ron Natinsky to hold onto his seat. In Tarrant County, Republican Konni Burton wins Wendy Davis' state Senate seat.

Statewide, it was a Republican sweep, with the GOP winning all statewide races. Greg Abbott is Texas' next governorand Dan Patrick will be lieutenant governor. Texas voters also approved Proposition 1, which taps billions of dollars from the Texas Rainy Day Fund for roads and transportation projects. 

In Dallas, voters narrowly approved a proposition that will boost City Council members' pay from $37,500 to $60,000 and the mayor's pay from $60,000 to $80,000. 

In Frisco, residents voted to allow bars and restaurants to extend the time they serve alcohol until 2 a.m. Now the issue goes before the Frisco City Council -- council members will have the final say.

Three Fort Worth propositions passed by wide margins. Fort Worth residents voted on propositions that would help pay for a $450 million arena and sports facility – it would be in the cultural district and seat 14,000 people. The propositions include an admission tax and a parking tax. 

Catch up on the various races on ourelections page.

11:15 p.m. Susan Hawk declares victory in Dallas County DA race 

Around 11 p.m., Republican Susan Hawk declared she's the winner in the Dallas County district attorney's race. She made some remarks at Meso Maya restaurant. She has maintained a small lead over incumbent Craig Watkins all night long, although the lead has grown throughout the evening. As of 11 p.m., that lead was about 4,000 votes -- up from about 500 votes earlier in the evening. 

As of midnight, Watkins, a Democrat, hadn't made any public statements to the media. He was with his supporters in his office. 

At 12:15 a.m., more results were released. With 798 of 807 precincts reporting, Hawk had a 3,000-vote lead.

Shortly after 2 a.m., all of the precincts were reporting results, and Hawk won with 50.4 percent of the vote. She ended up getting about 3,000 more votes than Watkins. 

11:05 p.m.Ken Paxton elected attorney general

Republican Ken Paxton has been elected Texas attorney general but could still take office under the cloud of a criminal investigation. 

The state senator ran a shadow campaign after being fined $1,000 by state financial regulators in May for soliciting investment clients without registering. Prosecutors in Austin postponed a possible investigation into Paxton until after the election.

Aides to Paxton have called the matter settled and describe the violation as an administrative oversight.

The lingering issue never hurt Paxton's pursuit of a job that has become a powerful political stepping stone in Texas. Behind the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Paxton walloped his GOP primary challenger before this victory over little-known Democrat Sam Houston.

The last two attorneys general have been Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

10:45 p.m.: Statewide transportation proposition passes

Voters have approved a ballot referendum taking billions of dollars from Texas' Rainy Day Fund for roads and transportation infrastructure projects. The Texas Tribune reports:

As expected, Texas voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported using oil and gas tax revenue to fund new road projects. With almost four-fifths of precincts reporting statewide, the proposed constitutional amendment was winning with about 80 percent of the vote. It’s the second year in a row that voters have backed constitutional amendments to use dollars that otherwise would go to the state’s Rainy Day Fund to support infrastructure. Last year, voters created a new revolving fund to finance water projects throughout the state.

The Associated Press reports:  Tuesday's passage of Proposition 1 creates a constitutional amendment that diverts half the funds that flow into state cash reserves and instead sends them to a highway fund.

Booming oil and gas industries have bolstered the Rainy Day Fund, now worth about $9 billion.

The amendment means up to $1.7 billion for roads the first year. Its value will fluctuate later depending on oil and gas revenues.

Transportation officials have suggested that because of the state's growing population at least $4 billion in annual spending will be required just to maintain current traffic levels on jammed Texas roads.

But supporters say the measure's a good start.

10:32 p.m.: Fort Worth voters approve $450 million arena

Three Fort Worth propositions are passing by wide margins. Fort Worth residents voted on propositions that would help pay for a $450 million arena and sports facility – it would be in the cultural district and seat 14,000 people. The propositions include an admission tax and a parking tax. 

A private, non-profit has pledged to raise at least half the money needed to build the arena.

It will be adjacent to Will Rogers Memorial Center. Aside from rodeo activity, project supporters hope the new facility will host concerts and sporting events too.

10:15 p.m. Abbott declares victory

Greg Abbott, Texas' next governor, addressed his supporters Tuesday night. The Texas Tribune reports:"Tonight Texans sent a message," Abbott said. "You voted for hope over fear, for unity over division, for the majesty of what Texas is and what it can be. As Texans, the bonds we share transcend our differences.” 

The Tribune reports: 

Abbott, paralyzed in a freak accident in 1984, will become the first Texas governor in a wheelchair while in office, according to research provided by the Texas Legislative Reference Library; he’ll also be the first U.S. governor in a wheelchair since Alabama Gov. George Wallace served his last term in the mid-1980s. The attorney general referred to his disability in his victory speech, saying he was "living proof that a young a man can have his life broken in half and still rise up to be the governor of this great state.”

10:12 p.m: Denton voters continue to approve fracking ban 

With more than half of the precincts reporting, Denton residents continue to vote in favor of the fracking ban. The ban is leading now with 60 percent of the vote -- a 4,000-vote margin at the moment. Denton would become the first city in Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing.


Credit Christina Ulsh / KERA News
Supporters of a fracking ban in Denton celebrated Tuesday night. Denton residents voted in favor of the ban.

10:00 p.m.: Dan Patrick declares victory in lieutenant governor's race

Republican Dan Patrick addressed supporters Tuesday night. He's the next lieutenant governor after defeating Democrat Leticia Van de Putte. The Texas Tribune reports:

In a short victory speech before more than 300 supporters, including several Republican state senators and representatives, Patrick said he would push a hard-line Republican agenda while presiding over the Texas Senate. “I am blessed to come into a Senate that has very bright and capable people, and I will be a lieutenant governor that will empower them to lead,” Patrick said after listing off his legislative priorities, including lowering property taxes and securing the border. Patrick also struck a more emotional tone in his remarks, saying he was humbled by his win. “I’m a better man for these 15 months,” Patrick said.  Dabbing an occasional tear, Van de Putte addressed more than 200 supporters inside downtown San Antonio's Sunset Station to concede defeat. "Texas' better days are in the future, and that's because of people like you," Van de Putte told the crowd.  "This race was an uphill battle," she said. "I'm so proud of the millions that were raised, of the issues that were brought up."

9:58 p.m. In Tarrant County, Konni Burton maintains lead over Libby Willis 

Republican Konni Burton, a tea party organizer, faces Democrat Libby Willis, a neighborhood association leader, for Wendy Davis' old state senate seat. With 301 of 357 precincts reporting, Burton has 52 percent of the vote -- a lead of about 11,000 votes. Burton has been able to widen the gap as the evening progresses.

9:54 p.m. Susan Hawk maintains lead over Craig Watkins

In the race for Dallas County district attorney, Republican Susan Hawk has widened her lead over Democrat Craig Watkins, the incumbent. But the lead is still small -- about 2,400 votes. So far, 362 of 807 precincts are reporting. Earlier in the evening, the margin was about 500 votes. 

9:30 p.m. Listen to KERA's live 30-minute election special

Get up to speed on the various North Texas and statewide races on KERA 90.1 FM. An election special airs from 9:30-10 p.m. Listen live here.

9:27 p.m. Konni Burton maintains lead for state Senate seat

The battle over a state senate seat in Tarrant County is the most closely watched legislative race in Texas. It's Wendy Davis' old seat. Republican Konni Burton, a tea party organizer, faces Democrat Libby Willis, a neighborhood association leader. With 194 of 357 precincts reporting, Burton has 51 percent of the vote -- a lead of about 7,000 votes.

9:21 p.m. In Denton, fracking ban supporters are cheering

With 14 of 39 precincts reporting, Denton residents continue to vote in favor of the fracking ban. The ban is leading now with 60 percent of the vote -- a lead of about 4,000 votes. As KERA's Doualy Xaykaothao reported recently:"The city that sits on top of 500 square miles of valuable gas reserves could become the first Texas town to prohibit hydraulic fracturing. ... Industry defenders say a ban could cost Denton as much as three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars. Ban supporters argue those numbers are inflated, and that the city only gets a little over $500,000 in property tax revenue from minerals such as oil and gas."

9:20 p.m.Susan Hawk maintains slight lead

More election results are trickling in. In the race for Dallas County district attorney, Republican Susan Hawk maintains a slight lead over Democrat Craig Watkins, the incumbent. More than 150 of 807 precincts are now reporting. Hawk leads by about 500 votes.

9:15 p.m. Davis concedes: 'Being disappointed is OK. But being discouraged is not'

Democrat Wendy Davis conceded to Republican Greg Abbott Tuesday night. Around 9 p.m., she addressed supporters in Fort Worth.

Wendy Davis concedes Tuesday night in Fort Worth.

“It is in every Texan’s interest that he have a productive four years as our next governor,” Davis told the audience. “Throughout his campaign, [Attorney] General Abbott has reminded us how strong he is, how determined he is and while he and I disagree on many issues, I know that he loves Texas. Tonight, I know that you are disappointed. And being disappointed is OK. But being discouraged is not. What we have before us is an opportunity to remake this state in your image. And prove to the world what we have always known.”


8:58 p.m. Abbott declares victory on Twitter

Republican Greg Abbott, the attorney general who has been declared the next governor of Texas, posted this note on Twitter:


8:56 p.m. Texas voters approve Proposition 1 for transportation projects

The Associated Press reports that Texas voters have approved Proposition 1, which taps billions of dollars from the Texas Rainy Day Fund for roads and transportation projects. 

8:50 p.m. Van de Putte concedes to Patrick

In the lieutenant governor's race, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte has conceded to Republican Dan Patrick. "I am so fortunate and honored to have had so much support from Texans all across the state," Van de Putte said in a statement. "I congratulate Dan Patrick on running a disciplined campaign. ... I look forward to continuing to serve my community and this great state." 

8:38 p.m. Dallas County DA contender Susan Hawk is confident

KERA's Stella Chavez is at the Susan Hawk watch party. Hawk had a slight lead during early voting over Craig Watkins, the incumbent Dallas County district attorney. Supporters applauded Hawk as she arrived at Meso Maya restaurant in Dallas.

“The mood is festive. People are very optimistic,” Stella says. “I haven’t heard any concern by supporters of Susan Hawk. They feel good with the numbers they’re seeing right now.”

Elsewhere, Democrats gathered at a watch party, wondering how Watkins will do. Lupe Valdez, the Dallas County sheriff, knows Watkins faces a tough race.

“I’m concerned about Craig perhaps not winning tonight,” Valdez told KERA’s Bill Zeeble. “It’s important that we continue the flow that’s been going on. I know he’s had some problems … It’s important to continue the relationships we’ve built with the judges, the DAs, the defense [attorneys].”

8:21 p.m. In statewide races, a Republican sweep

The Associated Press has declared Republicans the winners in all of the major statewide races. Greg Abbott will be governor, defeating Wendy Davis. Dan Patrick will be lieutenant governor, defeating Leticia Van de Putte. Ken Paxton will be attorney general. And George P. Bush will be Texas Land Commissioner. Bush is the nephew of former President George W. Bush.

8:09 p.m. In Denton, Fracking ban opponents subdued

The big issue in Denton is a proposed ban on fracking. And the ban has strong support during early voting. KERA’s Doualy Xaykaothao is in Denton with representatives of Denton Taxpayers For A Strong Economy, which opposes a fracking ban. The crowd is hushed and people don’t want to comment right now, Doualy reports. About 300 people have gathered, including State Rep. Myra Crownover, a member of the Texas House.

8:03 p.m. Susan Hawk arrives at her election watch party

Republican Susan Hawk has arrived at her watch party, KERA's Stella M. Chavez reports. In early voting, Hawk has a slight lead over Democrat Craig Watkins, the incumbent.

7:55 p.m. Dan Patrick ahead of Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor

With only 1.8 percent of the precincts in, Republican Dan Patrick is in the lead for lieutenant governor, ahead of Democrat Leticia Van de Putte. Patrick has 56 percent; Van de Putte has 41 percent. Patrick has been ahead in polls throughout the campaign.

7:42 p.m. Republican Konni Burton in lead for Wendy Davis' senate seat

The battle over a state senate seat in Tarrant County is the most closely watched legislative race in Texas. It's Wendy Davis' old seat. Republican Konni Burton, a tea party organizer, faces Democrat Libby Willis, a neighborhood association leader. Burton has 52 percent of the early vote. KERA's Shelley Kofler reported recently: "The race is considered pivotal. If Burton wins, Republicans in the Texas Senate will be within one vote of using a rule that would allow them to block any measure Democrats want to bring to the floor for consideration."


7:40 p.m. In early voting, Clay Jenkins in the lead

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat, has a wide lead during early voting against Republican opponent Ron Natinsky. Some had accused Jenkins of trying to politicize the response to the Ebola cases in Dallas -- an accusation Jenkins denied.  Jenkins has 55 percent of the vote so far.

7:36 p.m. Cornyn optimistic for Republicans across Texas and the country

U.S. Senator John Cornyn spoke with KERA’s Shelley Kofler. He has a wide lead over his Democratic opponent, David Alameel. Cornyn says he feels optimistic about his chances. “I am hoping the turnout is good so we can send some good people” to local offices across Texas, he said.

He believes Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be the next Senate majority leader. “He believes in an open legislative process,” Cornyn said of McConnell.

He believes there will be more of a bipartisan spirit in the Senate with Republicans in charge. Cornyn also says he thinks immigration reform “will happen in smaller pieces.” 

7:31 p.m. Denton fracking ban winning during early voting

During early voting, Denton voters are voting in favor of a proposition that would ban fracking. About 59 percent of voters are in favor of it. 

7:16 p.m.: Abbott with early voting lead over Davis

Keep in mind that only 0.4 percent of the early votes are in for the governor's race, but Republican Greg Abbott is in the lead over Democrat Wendy Davis.  He has 68 percent of those few early votes; Davis has 31 percent.

7:03 p.m.: Hawk and Watkins are neck-and-neck

Early voting results for the Dallas County District Attorney show a very tight race, with Republican Susan Hawk with a very slight lead over Craig Watkins, the incumbent. 

Original post:

Among the noteworthy statewide races: Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott are battling for governor. Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte face off for lieutenant governor.

Locally, Republican Susan Hawk is in a heated battle with incumbent Craig Watkins for Dallas County district attorney. And, in Denton, voters will decide whether to ban fracking.

Listen and watch tonight

A note about tonight’s coverage: NPR’s live coverage starts at 7 p.m. on KERA 90.1 FM. KERA reporters will offer updates on the radio throughout the evening.

We’ll air a special 30-minute local election special at 9:30 p.m. on KERA 90.1 FM. The special will highlight the bigger local races and issues.

KERA-TV, Channel 13, will air a PBS NewsHour election special at 10 p.m.

Read our elections coverage

KERA reporters Courtney Collins, Stella M. Chavez, Doualy Xaykaothao, Dianna Douglas, Shelley Kofler, Lauren Silverman and Krystina Martinez contributed to this report, as did the Associated Press and The Texas Tribune.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.