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Republican state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, won the race for Texas land commissioner Tuesday, putting her in charge of the agency that oversees the Alamo, natural disaster relief funds, veteran land loans and more as the fourth Republican in a row to head the Texas General Land Office.
Buckingham declared victory over her opponent, conservationist Jay Kleberg, on social media at 10:13 p.m. Central. Decision Desk HQ called the race at 1:27 a.m. Central on Wednesday. Buckingham is the first woman to lead the land office in its 185-year history.
Buckingham will replace Republican incumbent George P. Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for attorney general instead of seeking reelection. Bush first became land commissioner in 2015; he succeeded fellow Republicans Jerry E. Patterson, who had headed the land office since 2003, and David Dewhurst, who filled the role for four years before Patterson.
“After crisscrossing our beautiful state for more than a year, tonight’s resounding victory is a testament to the hard work of so many people who believed in me and put their faith behind this campaign,” Buckingham said in a statement after declaring victory.
Kleberg’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports filed Oct. 31, Buckingham’s campaign had about $501,500 on hand while Kleberg’s had almost $130,000. However, Kleberg’s campaign spent nearly twice as much as Buckingham’s — $1.38 million to her $700,000 — from Sept. 30 to Oct. 29.
The land commissioner is in charge of the Texas General Land Office, the state’s oldest public agency. It is responsible for managing public land, including enforcing leases for mineral rights and selling land to raise funds for the Texas Permanent School Fund, the country’s largest statewide public education endowment that the land office controls. The land office and its leader are responsible for distributing natural disaster relief funds, like the money Texas received in the wake of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, and have been in charge of the Alamo, including plans for its renovations and upkeep, since 2011. The land commissioner also chairs the Texas Veterans Land Board, which manages nine group homes and four cemeteries for Texas veterans.
Before serving the public as a state senator and running for land commissioner, Buckingham earned her medical degree and worked as an eye surgeon specializing in oculoplastics.
Kleberg is a former associate director of the nonprofit Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and a member of the family that owns and operates the 825,000-acre King Ranch, which sprawls across several counties, including Kleberg and Kenedy counties.
In the race, Kleberg campaigned heavily on conservation and protecting public lands while Buckingham sold voters on lowering inflation — even though the land commissioner isn’t responsible for inflation — and developing Texas energy.
How Texas counts ballots
How can I check whether my ballot was counted?
Voters can check with their county election officials to see whether their vote was counted. Some counties also make this information available on their websites. Find your county website here. Who a person voted for is not public record. If you voted through a provisional ballot because of an administrative issue or photo ID problem, you should receive a notice by mail letting you know if your ballot was counted by Dec. 2. Voters who vote by mail can use an online tracker to check the status of their mail-in ballot. You can access the tracker here.
How are votes counted in Texas elections?
County officials can begin counting early voting results, including mail-in ballots, on as early as the last day of early voting in large counties. Those results are usually posted online shortly after polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. Counties must count results from each polling location within 24 hours of the polls closing. Those counts are added in increments to the tally, which is then updated online. This takes time as polling places are closed down and election materials are transported back to county election officials. Election Day results are unofficial because officials still have to account for late arriving mail-in ballots, ballots from military or overseas voters and provisional ballots.
Where can I see election results?
For federal, district and state elections, you can find results on our results page. The data is from our partner Decision Desk HQ, which gathers information from the Texas Secretary of State’s office and a representative sample of 50 counties to provide estimates as to how many votes are left to be counted and call winners. For local elections, you can find results on your county’s website. Find yours here.
How are ballots and elections protected in Texas?
Voting machines and software are certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Texas Secretary of State. Machines used to mark and read ballots cannot connect to the internet to protect against hacking. The machines also have seals with unique serial numbers and are locked down at the end of voting. Paper ballots are also stored in locked boxes and must be preserved for at least 22 months after an election. Texas requires counties that use electronic machines to count votes to conduct a partial manual audit after the election. Read more about election safeguards here.
How common is voter fraud?
Several studies, reports and courts have found that voter fraud is relatively rare, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. Instances of alleged fraud have also in some cases turned out to be mistakes by elections administrators or voters, according to the center. The Texas Secretary of State’s office launched an audit of the 2020 election results in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin Counties. The audit is ongoing, but an initial report found few discrepancies between manual and electronic counts. The Texas Attorney General’s office also opened 390 cases looking at potential electoral fraud from January 2020 to September 2022, but it only secured five election-related convictions during that period.
Buckingham and Kleberg had both indicated they plan to support veterans and grow the Permanent School Fund, key responsibilities of the General Land Office.
Both candidates made appearances around Texas to speak with voters during their campaigns; Kleberg spoke with everyday Texans during his dance hall tour while Buckingham made key stops across the state on her “Guns to Gowns” tour.
Buckingham boasted a list of endorsements from high-profile Republican figures, including former President Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Despite running as a Democrat, Kleberg was endorsed by a number of Texan politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke and Republican former Secretary of State Geoff Connor.
Disclosure: Texas General Land Office has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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