Election Endorsements

The Primary Countdown Continues

We know you care about regional planning. We know you worry about the future of transportation, the environment, and criminal justice issues in Travis County. We know you need topnotch elected officials to represent you at both the state and county levels. We also know that few of you have time to wade through all the issues and the lists of candidates vying in the upcoming party primaries. That's why the Chronicle is offering the following endorsements. If you don't make it to early voting by Friday, March 6, that means you need to vote this coming Tuesday, March 10. The winners of the primaries will advance to the Nov. 3 general election. For polling info, call the county elections division at 473-9553.

Travis Co. Democrats:

County Judge:

Valarie Bristol and Sam Biscoe (dual)

Last year, both of these lifelong Democrats resigned their respective county commissioner seats - Biscoe in Pct. 1 and Bristol in Pct. 3 - to run for the county judgeship, and Austin's progressive/enviro community has been wringing its hands ever since. Both candidates have strong liberal credentials, but also huge anti-enviro skeletons in their closet. Both agree that a healthy environment makes for a healthy economy, both are highly qualified and have experience on the court, and either one would make a decent county judge.

County Commissioner Pct. 1:

Ron Davis

Davis has displayed a longtime commitment to his community through years of volunteer work to bring equity and an overall improvement of living standards to the people of East Austin. There is simply no one else running for the commissioner's seat in this traditionally underserved precinct whose activism and community experience matches Davis's.

County Commissioner Pct. 2:

Karen Sonleitner

The Democratic Party's mission in this race is to beat newly converted Republican Bob "Road Warrior" Honts in November. Incumbent Sonleitner is running for her second term in Pct. 2 and we endorse her candidacy. Sonleitner has the energy and enthusiasm to put shoulder to the wheel and move full-speed ahead on the issues - transportation and public safety, to name a couple - facing this precinct.

County Commissioner Pct. 3:

No endorsement

Ask Ann Graham and Nan Clayton to list the differences between them, and they won't be able to name a single philosophical divergence of opinion. And that's a shame, because it would be nice if either of these accomplished and experienced candidates offered an attractive vision of the future of Pct. 3, the southwestern district that contains some of the county's fastest growing and most environmentally sensitive areas.

County Commissioner Pct. 4:

Margaret Gómez

Incumbent Commissioner Gómez has taken a lot of knocks - unnecessarily - for her quiet nature, which some people perceive as a sign that she's not working. By her record, it looks like Gómez is a better doer than talker, and we endorse her endeavor to keep getting things done in her precinct.

261st District Court:

Lora Livingston

Livingston, an associate judge in Travis County District Courts, has already acquired valuable bench experience handling thousands of cases, and that experience would serve her well in an elected judicial post. Additionally, Livingston comes equipped with the temperament that citizens expect of a judge.

Justice of the Peace Pct. 5:

Gisela Triana

In her relatively short career since graduating from UT Law School in 1988, Triana may not have tried as many cases as her opponent in this race, but her time on the bench as an associate municipal court judge since 1994 makes her uniquely qualified to judge both the criminal and civil cases that will come before her as J.P. She gets our nod, despite a late attack mailer against opponent Herb Evans that is one of the slimiest, most dishonest pieces of campaign trash we've seen in some time. Not that Evans has been above similar tactics in this oddly acrimonious race.

County Court at Law #5:

Wilfred Aguilar

There are two main knocks on incumbent Judge Aguilar. One concerns a November 1996 public intoxication offense that was never prosecuted (see story, p.28), but probably ought not to be an issue. The other is that some have complained that he doesn't clear his docket in a timely manner, allowing repeated continuances which clog the system and cost both time and money. It's hard to judge the extent to which that is true, but in our view, these criticisms are outweighed by Aguilar's reputation as an effective and fair jurist.

County Court at Law #6:

Jade Meeker

Of the three Democratic contenders, Meeker is best qualified to handle this court's criminal docket. Currently the Pct. 5 Justice of the Peace, Meeker is board certified in criminal law, and is recognized statewide as a legal scholar and expert in her field. In her J.P. post, Meeker has built a reputation for running her court efficiently and responsibly. It seems natural that she would continue this same style of management if elected to the county court.

Statewide Races:

Attorney General:

Jim Mattox

In the 1980s former attorney general Jim Mattox did an unprecedented good job in precisely the areas - consumer and environmental protection - that his successor, Dan Morales, decimated. Mattox deserves to come back.

Commissioner of Agriculture:

Pete Patterson

As a former state representative, Patterson (D- Brookston) had a record of helping farmers and ranchers in Texas through his sponsorship of several bills, including a proposal to authorize up to $500 million in bonds for loans to buy farm or ranch land. He has already proven to be an effective advocate for his constituents.

Railroad Commissioner:

Gary Dugger

The local real estate broker should get some mileage from his name - he's the son of former Texas Observer publisher Ronnie Dugger - and, like a chip off the old block, he is running under a populist banner, promoting energy-saving programs for the industry and looking to tax the big producers more and the small producers less. The populist political newcomer's refreshing stance inspires us.

3rd Appeals Court Justice:

No endorsement

Excuses vary, but we plead ignorance in this race, which pits Austin attorneys Bob Roller and Jan Patterson.


On the GOP side, many races are uncontested, or offer an unpalatable selection of candidates. We did, however, find one candidate who seems clearly a better choice than her opponents.

Justice of the Peace Pct. 2:

Barbara Bembry

It is likely that Precinct 2, which is heavily populated with Republican voters, will go to the GOP this year, and Attorney Bembry is best qualified among the four Republican contenders. She has done her homework with regards to the demands of the 25,000-case docket, and, as a practicing attorney with both a criminal and civil background, she's best prepared to hit the ground running should she win in November.

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