Welcome to the 2015 Elections
That is, if you live in San Antonio, Bastrop, or Brenham
By Richard Whittaker,
12:30PM, Mon. Jan. 5, 2015
With the 84th Legislature just around the corner, there are still four – potentially five – seats up in the air. A trio of special elections in Central Texas will decide most tomorrow.
San Antonio faces two different races, both from the same cause: Senate District 26 and House District 123 are vacant because their former incumbents, Leticia Van de Putte and Mike Villareal, have stepped down to run for mayor of the River City. East of Austin in HD17, Tim Kleinschmidt resigned to become general counsel at the Agriculture Commission.
As the nearest race to Austin, HD17 is arguably of greatest local concern. It's five-horse race, with two Democrats (realtor Shelley Cartier and pastor Ty McDonald), two Republicans (contractor John Cyrier and businessman Brent Golemon), and ex-Austinite/community organizer Linda Curtis.
For a short term election, it's already brought in some serious cash. Presumptive leader Cyrier has raised $87,545, with investment from major corporate and employee PACs like the Texas State Teachers Association, Texas Building Branch AGC, and the Houston Associated General Contractors. So far, Goleman's latest campaign finance report has yet to turn up on the Secretary of State's website, but it's doubtful he'll be within even Hail Mary distance of his in-party opponent.
On the Democrat side, there's no sign of Cartier's eight-day report either, while McDonald (who nearly challenged Kleinschmidt in 2013) has raised a flimsy $2,350. For the Democrats to have any chance, they'll need the county and state party to ride to the rescue: Unfortunately for them, the institutional Dems seem to be putting most effort into throwing Battleground Texas under the bus.
Recent Bastrop transplant Curtis (well known in Austin for decades of leaping on every controversial issue and ramping up the tension) is going hard after presumptive leader Cyrier, blasting him for a mailer that she says falsely reports his list of supporters among elected officials in the area. However, her campaign finance report show little in the way of local support: The overwhelming bulk of her supporters are from Austin, and her two biggest supporters are principal Save Our Springs Alliance funder Kirk Mitchell ($2,000) and Long Island resident Deborah Green.
Curtis has painted this as a conspiracy by Gov. Rick Perry to get a Republican of his choosing in the seat without the fair fight of a multi-month election (of course, the fact that the new legislative session begins on Jan. 13 has nothing to do with anything). There are old tensions here: One of Cyrier's biggest donors is pro-toll road lobbyist Gary Farmer, who has found himself on the opposite side of transportation fights with Curtis and one of the many groups she has fronted. She's also going after Cyrier as part of Speaker Joe Straus' campaign to suck all the water out of Central Texas. Of course, the alternative conspiracy theory is that Curtis, an established political gadfly with a keen opportunist eye, saw an opening in the chaos of a five-way race, and thinks she can use the short turnaround of this race to her advantage.
Luckily for Austinites, none of this has a direct effect on them. However, even when these special elections are out of the way, there's at least one, and possibly two, more to come. Next week, there's a race in HD13, to replace new-Senator-elect Lois Kolkhorst. But if Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer wins tomorrow in SD26, then he'll have to vacate his House seat, and the residents of Bexar County face yet another runoff.
Pick up the new issue of the Austin Chronicle, on news stands on Jan. 8, for our full legislative preview, and follow us on Twitter @Legeland.