Travillion Defeats Sampson

Primary run-offs close a handful of local and state races

In the most closely watched local primary run-off Tuesday, the Travis County Precinct 1 Commissioners race, Jeff Travillion defeated Arthur Sampson. In the Precinct 1 Constable race, incumbent Danny Thomas defeated challenger Janie Serna.

Jeff Travillion (center) and supporters (Photo by John Anderson)

Travillion, a city of Austin administrator, had led among five candidates in the initial March 1 round, garnering 42% of the vote to retired project manager Sampson’s 18.5%. Nearly 24,000 people voted in the first round, but only 3,900 in the run-off. Such a low turnout might have made the outcome unpredictable, but front-runner Travillion, who had received most of the endorsements and had the better-funded campaign, received a formidable 67% of the vote, with Sampson at 33%.

Travillion told the Chronicle he was “honored and humbled” by the voters’ support and said it came from the whole range of the community: from the neighborhoods and churches, elderly and youth, and all ethnic groups. “I’m honored and humbled to be entrusted with this significant task,” he repeated, “and I will do my best to be a problem solver in Northeast Travis County, and all of Travis County.”

Travillion has a nominal Republican opponent in November, professional photographer Pat McCord, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary. Travillion said he intends to approach that race seriously and to talk about ideas and the issues facing Travis County. “I think my range of experiences, both professionally and community experiences,” Travillion said, “make me uniquely qualified to serve in this position.”

Asked for his response to the results, Sampson said he was reluctant to talk to the Chronicle, blaming in part the paper's endorsement of Travillion for his defeat. He said, “I don’t trust the Chronicle anymore, I don’t think they gave me a fair shake. I’m shocked and displeased in what the Chronicle wrote about me.” He also cited low turnout as a factor in the race, noting that only 3,900 people voted “in the most important election in Precinct 1.” Nevertheless, Sampson added, “That’s what the taxpayers want, so I can live with that.”

In other races of local interest, incumbent Precinct 1 Constable Danny Thomas defeated challenger Janie Serna with 65% of the vote. (Serna had narrowly led Thomas in the May 1 round, which also included Rick Schumacher.) In the statewide race for a seat on the Railroad Commission (which regulates oil and gas production), in Travis County Cody Garrett led Grady Yarbrough 52% to 48%, but statewide, perennial candidate Yarbrough won easily, 56% to 46%.

In selected run-offs of local interest on the Republican side: Wayne Christian narrowly defeated Gary Gates for Railroad Commissioner nominee (50.8-49.1%); for Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2, Mary Lou Keel defeated Ray Wheless (51-49%); and relatively moderate Keven Wheless pounded loony conspiracy theorist Mary Lou Bruner as GOP nominee for the District 9 representative to the State Board of Education (59.2-40.1%).

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Primary election 2016, County Commissioners, Primary Run-off 2016, Precinct 1 Commissioner, Jeff Travillion, Arthur Sampson

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