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The Donkeys Kick Back

From Doggett On down, local Democrats show their strength

Fri., March 12, 2004

Ron Davis Reaps Reward

Travis Co. Commissioner Ron Davis was all hugs and smiles after trampling three opponents in his re-election bid. The incumbent and longtime activist captured 51.8% of the votes in Precinct 1, covering east and northeast Travis Co. In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening in any local race, Davis' challenger Celia Israel ended up with a disappointing 27%. Israel, a lobbyist and former Ann Richards staffer, had raised more than twice as much money as Davis, secured key endorsements, and had the backing and financial support of the Downtown crowd. But in the end, none of that could offset Davis' name identification and record of grassroots activism in East Austin. Political rookies Kathy Bedford Smith and Arthur Sampson trailed at 12% and 9%, respectively.

All three rivals cited Davis' lack of accessibility as their primary reason for entering the race, but none of the three faulted Davis' voting record on the Commissioners Court. "They have to hang their hat on something, so they hung it on accessibility," said Davis, between phone calls at his East 12th Street campaign office – a building that has housed many East Austin candidates backed by its owner, former Dallas Cowboy Thomas Henderson. Supporters in one room hovered over a tiny TV set and a computer screen display of vote tallies, while well-wishers in the next room heaped their plates with barbecue, potato salad, pies, cakes, and cookies. Iced tea was the spirit of choice in this Baptist neighborhood. "This has been a very interesting experience," Davis went on. "It showed us that even though you do a lot for the community, it's never enough. There's still a lot of work to do, but I've got a lot of supporters out there who know that I will continue to do everything I can. They know that because I already have over 20 years of service to this community."

Meanwhile in North Austin, Israel and her supporters gathered at JC's Bar & Grill for what was to have been a victory celebration. Even with Israel's numbers hanging low at 8:45pm, the candidate, while not ready to admit defeat, appeared relieved that at least one hurdle had been cleared. "I'm glad it's over," she said, settling into a chair. "You never really feel the full burden of running a campaign until you do it yourself." Despite the loss, Israel said her door-knocking experience left her with a greater appreciation of the people who live in the precinct. "I have a much deeper understanding of diversity ... there are Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans, and everyone is buying their little piece of the American dream." Israel, who is Hispanic, tried to capitalize on the fact that Latinos make up the largest share of the Precinct 1, even though voters have historically elected an African-American to the seat. History repeated itself on Tuesday. – Amy Smith

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