Fri., Oct. 19, 2012
Straight tickets: Voting for one of four parties – Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green – will get you through the first half of the ballot, but there's plenty more at the bottom.
( = Awesome race, recommended)
Federal & State
President: No doubt you're aware of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney; Gary Johnson (L) and Jill Stein (G) have less visibility, plus there are seven state-certified write-in candidates; see "Point Austin," Oct. 12, for more info on those.
U.S. Senate: GOP Tea Partier Ted Cruz is a heavy favorite over stalwart former state Dem House member Paul Sadler; also on the ballot are Dallas cafe owner John Jay Myers (L) and Houston peace and justice activist David B. Collins (G).
U.S. House: You will see one of five races on your Travis County ballot: Districts 10, 17, 21, 25, and 35 are the fruits of GOP-dominated redistricting at the Legislature, and in four of the five, the GOP candidates are a virtual lock. HD 35 (which we now share with San Antonio) is the only race with a favored Democrat: Incumbent Rep. Lloyd Doggett faces former San Marcos mayor Susan Narvaiz (R), plus retired IRS employee Ross Lynn Leone (L), who advocates the abolition of the IRS, and San Antonio Green Party activist Meghan Owen.
Railroad Commission: There are two RRC (that is, energy regulation) seats on the ballot, both certain to be won by Republicans: The first features former House Speaker Tom Craddick's daughter Christi, an energy industry attorney; the other (to complete an unexpired term) features Gov. Perry appointee and Commission Chair Barry Smitherman (no Democrat even filed for this seat).
The Texas Supreme Court is dominated by conservative Republicans, and in three races, only one Dem filed: progressive Bexar County lawyer Michele Petty (Place 6, vs. incumbent Nathan Hecht); there are Libertarians in each race, and Greens in two of them.
Court of Criminal Appeals: The most important statewide race this year is for presiding judge of the CCA (criminal appeals, including capital cases): GOP incumbent Sharon Keller faces Austin Dem criminal defense attorney Keith Hampton; Keller (notorious for her refusal to accept a death row appeal after 5pm "closing time") has faced ethics inquiries and fines, and essentially has neither campaigned nor visited editorial boards – including her hometown paper, The Dallas Morning News, which (along with bipartisan former judges, State Bar presidents, and the State Bar poll) endorsed Hampton. In two other CCA races, there's just a Republican and a Libertarian.
Third Court of Appeals: This is the most important local court in Texas, thanks to its statewide impact via state agency cases. It covers 24 counties, with a Travis County plurality but not controlling majority. There are currently four GOP and two Dem justices, with Republican Melissa Goodwin and Democratic Chief Justice Woodie Jones not up for reelection.
• Place 2: Incumbent, former deputy assistant AG, and Perry appointee Jeff Rose (R) faces current Associate District Judge Andrew Hathcock (D).
• Place 3: Six-year incumbent Diane Henson (D) faces Scott Field (R), who heads the Field Law Firm, and promises "constitutional" rulings.
• Place 5: McGinnis Lochridge partner Karen Watkins (D) is challenging GOP incumbent David Puryear – notorious for telling San Angelo voters that Barack Obama is the "most radical president in the history of this country."
• Place 6: Veteran Travis County prosecutor Bryan Case (D) is challenging GOP incumbent Bob Pemberton (R), who notably tried and failed to get Case disqualified earlier this year for ballot petition irregularities.
Travis County District Courts: In all nine districts, incumbent Democrats are running unopposed.
State Board of Education
Two SBOE districts split Travis County, very roughly Northeast (5) and Southwest (10):
In District 5, Texas State Prof. Rebecca Bell-Metereau (D) challenges incumbent Ken Mercer (R), a frank educational reactionary; also in the race are Mark Loewe (L), also a TSU and UT teacher; and Bexar County educator and activist Irene Meyer Scharf (G).
• In District 10, education professional Judy Jennings (D) faces Future Farmers of America director Tom Maynard (R) for an open seat.
State Senate: Roughly half of Travis County joins Bastrop County in District 14; the southwestern edge of the county is divided, from north to south, across districts 24 (with Llano and Burnet), 25 (Hays and Comal), and 21 (Guadalupe).
• District 14: Incumbent Kirk Watson (D) faces only a Libertarian opponent, grandly mustachioed ACC student Ryan Dixon.
• District 21 (Austin to the Mexican border): Longtime incumbent Judith Zaffirini (D) faces Lockhart contractor Grant Rostig (R) and writer/volunteer Joseph Morse (L).
• District 24: Incumbent Troy Fraser (R) is unopposed.
• District 25: Libertarian doctor Donna Campbell (R) faces San Antonio teacher and activist John Courage (D).
State House of Representatives: Four of the six Travis County House Districts are safely Democratic; only 47 and 48 in the Southwest and West feature competitive races.
District 47: Incumbent contractor Paul Workman faces small-businessman Chris Frandsen (D) and medical technician and Texans for Accountable Government activist Nick Tanner (L).
• District 48: Business consultant Robert Thomas (R) challenges incumbent Donna Howard (D); entrepreneur Joe Edgar (L) is also in the race.
Several incumbents are unopposed: District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, County Court-at-Law #8 Judge Carlos H. Barrera, County Attorney David Escamilla, and Precinct 1's County Commissioner and Constable.
Sheriff: Incumbent Dem Greg Hamilton faces former sheriff Raymond Frank (R) and Libertarian Jaclyn L. Finkel.
County Commissioner, Precinct 3: In this notable race in Western Travis, incumbent Karen Huber (D), the New, faces former commissioner Gerald Daugherty (R), the Old, and Pat Dixon (L), chair of the state Libertarian Party.
Tax Assessor-Collector: Longtime constable Bruce Elfant (D) is challenged by newcomer Vik Vad (R) and Mike Burris (L) for this position, which also includes the equally important duties of voter registrar.
Constable: These races regularly generate much more heat than light. The high-octane race this year is Precinct 2, where incumbent Adan Ballesteros, after a bruising primary, faces Lago Vista Republican Toby J. Miller and Libertarian Raul "Roy" Camacho. In Precinct 3, incumbent Sally Hernandez (D) is challenged by West Lake officer Mike Varela (R) and Libertarian Scott G. McKinlay. Democrats in Precincts 1, 4, and 5 face no GOP opposition.