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Houston schools measure lags, Austin transit bond leads

Harris County elected a Democratic district attorney, Houston ISD voters thumbed their noses at the Texas school finance system and Austin voters backed a $720 million transportation bond.

As the doors open at 7 a.m. on Election Day 2016, people stream into the George Washington Carver Library in Austin, Texas to cast their vote.

Down the ballot from the historic presidential race and congressional and legislative contests, a handful of local Texas races drew state — and in some cases national — attention. Here's a look at what voters have decided in some high-profile matters farther down the ticket, with the majority of precincts reporting.

Harris County district attorney

Democratic candidate Kim Ogg beat incumbent Devon Anderson Tuesday evening in the state's most populous county. Ogg won with 54 percent of the vote.

Ogg narrowly lost to Anderson in 2014. The rematch was projected to be another nail-biter, with a University of Houston poll showing Anderson leading Ogg by 1 percentage point in September, then trailing by seven points in October.

The race has drawn attention to how the county's criminal justice system treats victims of crimes. In a September debate, Ogg and Anderson argued over Anderson's decision last year to jail a mentally ill rape victim for several weeks until she testified against her attacker.  

Anderson's campaign criticized Ogg for receiving financial support from liberal New York billionaire George Soros, who bought a $500,000 advertisement.

Houston ISD measure

A strong majority of voters within the Houston Independent School District opposed a measure to send $165 million in local property taxes to poorer school districts — the first vote of its kind in the history of the current school finance system. Almost 63 percent voted against the proposition by the end of the night.

The mayor and many HISD trustees urged voters to reject the measure and not hand over the tax money. 

Rejecting the measure paves the way for the state to potentially take the money from HISD in a different way. Commissioner Mike Morath sent a letter to HISD officials based on initial results notifying them that TEA might move commercial properties from its tax rolls to the tax rolls of another district.

School trustees have said they hope the Legislature will exempt them from having to pay.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently butted heads on the issue of school funding. Patrick suggested Abbott call a special legislative session in 2017 to overhaul the school finance system. Abbott argued there was enough time during the 140-day regular session.

Patrick later said he was not advocating for a special session, just suggesting the issue may necessitate one.

Austin transportation bond

A majority of Austin voters supported a $720 million transportation bond initiative to help alleviate the city's traffic, with the proposition drawing 59 percent of the vote, according to incomplete returns. It is intended to help create "smart corridors" throughout Austin, adding bike lanes, widening sidewalks and upgrading traffic signals.

The initiative is expected to cost the average homeowner at least $60 annually.

The political action committee supporting the bond had raised $650,000 as of early October. Opponents raised about an eighth of that in the same time period.

Hidalgo County health district

For the second time in two years, Hidalgo County voters are likely to reject a measure to create a health care district intended to boost medical services for largely uninsured, low-income residents.

Updated reports Wednesday showed 72 percent voting against the measure.

Proponents have focused on how it would help the newly created medical school at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Opponents of the districts have said it is too expensive to support, with a new local tax of 8 cents per $100 of property value. A board of managers, appointed by the county and four cities, would use those funds to operate the district.

Last month, opponents filed suit against county commissioners for opening mobile polling locations at local hospitals — arguing it was a ploy to manipulate voters. The judge denied the motion, allowing the locations to open.

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Health care Politics Public education Transportation 2016 elections Dan Patrick Greg Abbott School finance Texas Education Agency