Joe Biden takes majority in historically Republican Williamson County

Some experts have attributed the Biden win to changes in demographics in Williamson County. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Some experts have attributed the Biden win to changes in demographics in Williamson County. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Some experts have attributed the Biden win to changes in demographics in Williamson County. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

While a president has yet to be officially declared, the historically dominant Republican community of Williamson County leaned blue in the 2020 election, election results show.

About 49.52% of ballots cast for president went to Democratic candidate Joe Biden versus 48.19% for incumbent Donald Trump with all polling locations reporting. The remaining votes went to Jo Jorgensen, Howie Hawkins and write-in candidates, it said.

The county also flipped in the race for sheriff, where Democratic candidate Mike Gleason won significantly over incumbent Republican candidate Robert Chody. Gleason won with 56.06% of the vote.

“It was a very exciting night for us,” said Kim Gilby, chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party. “We always talk about, 'This isn't a sprint, it's most definitely a marathon.' And it was huge for Joe Biden to win Wilco.”

Gilby said that while Republicans predominantly managed to hang on to their seats at various levels, gaps within the races were closing and even competitive in a few. The WCDP also managed to pick up a constable seat in Precinct 1, with Mickey Chance beating out incumbent Vinnie Cherrone.

The party also managed to maintain two of the three state representative seats held by Democrats, data shows.

Other wins for the party include Jimmy Flannigan advancing to a runoff for Austin City Council, Heather Jefts for Cedar Park City Council, Frank Ortega for Round Rock City Council, Tiffanie Harrison for Round Rock ISD and Rachael Jonrowe for Georgetown City Council. While the candidates are not affiliated with a party on the ballot, they all were endorsed by the WCDP.

“I'm really proud of the races our candidates ran because they stuck to the issues,” Gilby said. “They stayed true to themselves, and they ran fact-based campaigns.”

She said that much of night’s success came from the party’s ability to recruit quality candidates to run, something she said it previously lacked. Gilby added that she believed the high turnout—Williamson County had a 75% voter turnout, the highest it has ever had—and the changing demographics of the county contributed to the wins.

“'I’m one of those people that always felt like [Williamson County is] not truly as red as people think we are. We simply—for whatever reason, people don't vote.” Gilby said.

Williamson County’s population has exploded over the last 10 years, increasing from 422,679 residents to an estimated 590,551 in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Gilby and Emily Sydnor, a political science professor at Southwestern University, said many of the demographic changes can be attributed to the high cost of living in Austin, which leads families to move to the suburbs, as well as to the increase in major tech hubs, such as Apple, which is bringing families from across the country to the area.

“The fact that there are counties like Williamson County that did flip, that did have a majority for Biden rather than Trump, show the demographics are changing,” Sydnor said. “Maybe we aren’t the swing state in 2020 the way that some people thought, but that maybe comes in 2022 or 2024.”

The state as a whole went to Trump, earning him 38 electoral college votes. The presidency is called when the first candidate reaches 270 electoral college votes.

Sydnor also made a note that while the race for presidency was close in the county, a majority of the other races at the county level had a clear winner, which she said shows that there is actually more agreement between residents than what the top of the ticket may suggest.

Most incumbents at the county level won, excluding the sheriff and one constable position.

“I think reminding all of us that government doesn't just happen at the national level and that we have lots of agreements about how we want to see local, county and city communities move forward and work together,” Sydnor said. “[Remembering this] is a good way to reduce that sense of division and frustration that I know people are feeling.”

Gilby said she believes this is only the beginning for Democrats in Williamson County. She said the party will continue to work to recruit and support quality candidates and that she hopes for a strong showing in future elections.

“The day is coming, mark my words, where you will see more and more folks with a 'D' beside their name on the ballot be elected to public office [in Williamson County],” Gilby said.

A representative from the Williamson County Republican Party could not be reached for this story.