Voters wait to cast their ballots in the primary election in Dallas on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Credit: Lynda M. Gonzalez | AP

Democratic primary turnout was up 59 percent across metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth.

OK, so the region probably isn’t flipping blue anytime soon, not with Republicans in power and an incumbent president and U.S. senator up for reelection this fall.

But something unusual is happening.

In notoriously conservative Collin and Denton counties, Democrats doubled turnout and outvoted Republicans — in Collin, by 15,429 votes.

“I think the Democrats have been working real hard the last several years,” said Denton County Republican Chairman Jayne Howell, a rural Denton County realtor.

“I think we’ll do better in the fall. Seeing this huge Democratic turnout will wake some people up.”

Democrats saw hard-fought campaigns at the top of the ticket while Republicans only had to choose local nominees, so maybe the numbers aren’t surprising.

But overall, Democrats outvoted Republicans by 22 percent across the four core metropolitan counties, three of them traditionally solid red.

Republican turnout was down 43 percent from 2016, when the Ted Cruz-Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders races ignited both parties.

“It didn’t surprise me at all,” said Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Rick Barnes of Keller.

“They had a bigger ballot. … In the fall, we’ll be back to a normal turnout. The importance of keeping President Trump in office will bring people out.”

Some of those Democrats may not be back in the fall.

Democrats’ edge in Denton County was “largely due to young people and college students” mostly voting for Sanders, said Kimi King, a political science professor at the University of North Texas.

Sanders narrowly won Denton County, his only victory north of greater Austin.

“One thing that has been floated is that Sanders voters are highly energized and mobilized,” King said. ” … They will turn out in primaries, but if he doesn’t get the Democratic nod at the convention this summer, they may stay home.”

Democrats also gained ground in Johnson and Parker counties, voting heavily for former Vice President Joe Biden over Sanders.

Democratic turnout was up 60 percent in Johnson and Parker counties. Republican turnout was down.

So it wasn’t just Bernie.

“It’s a mobilization of previous Democratic voters who maybe stayed home in 2016,” said political science professor Rebecca Deen of the University of Texas Arlington.

Democrats are “growing the party and [having] quite a bit of mobilizing success,” Deen said.

Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman wrote from Austin that the Dallas-Fort Worth area — including much-talked about bellwether counties Collin and Tarrant — is ”the battleground inside the biggest battleground state.”

Democrats also narrowly outvoted Republicans statewide, albeit in a year with no significant Republican statewide race.

“There’s no question that the energy and momentum are on our side,” he wrote.

The Democratic turnout was significant in a few local districts.

The Republican turnout is expected to return in force.

The question is how many Democrats will return.

Bud Kennedy is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.