Kitchen in the House?
Ann Kitchen's pile of endorsements and a strong tie to local politics led her to a surprisingly easy win over Mandy Dealey in the state House District 48 race in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Kitchen, who nabbed 75% of the vote, will now face the winner of a Republican runoff between attorneys Jill Warren and Scott Loras, who took in 34% and 24% of the vote, respectively.
Kitchen, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, had been a favorite after receiving every endorsement from local community and political organizations. Her experience in state government with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Office of the Attorney General gave her a slight edge from the beginning over Dealey, a former head of Planned Parenthood and several mental health associations. And Kitchen's well-organized workers, veterans of a slew of other successful local races, added the knockout punch, even though Dealey had the support of several prominent "old guard" Democrats.
Despite the impending Republican runoff, Kitchen and Warren are already squaring off as adversaries in a potentially contentious November race. It isn't hard to imagine the two butting heads, since they have divergent views on how to promote a better quality of life in Austin.
Warren says Kitchen is involved in the "myopic leadership" of Austin that has made environmental politics more important than moving ahead and solving the area's problems with traffic and land use. "I submit that the people will stick with me for a new vision for Austin," Warren says.
Kitchen notes that Warren's advocacy of building new roads while refuting the need for mass transit improvements like light rail "won't work in Austin," adding that there need to be "multiple approaches" to solving traffic problems. Warren, a lawyer for the high-tech industry, is also positioning herself as a natural in the "new economy" of Texas, someone who can lead Austin in the high-tech era. Kitchen, in turn, hammers home the need for affordable health care and a commitment to a clean environment.
District 48 has been a stable Democratic stronghold ever since retiring Rep. Sherri Greenberg took the post from a Republican over a decade ago. Bill Emory, a consultant for Dealey who was among a handful of her supporters waiting for vote returns at City Coliseum on election night, says the November match-up between the favored Democrat and Republicans eager to get a majority in the House could be closer than people think. With the influx of new residents living in gated apartment complexes in South Austin, it's uncertain who these newcomers are, or how they'll vote.
Kitchen remains optimistic. "We'll find out who they are," she says. Meanwhile, GOP runoff contender Loras is confident, despite the early positioning between Warren and Kitchen. "I feel good about things ... I got into the race six weeks after Warren did and I'm in the ballpark," he says.
Dealey could not be reached for comment on her loss, but Emory blames part of the dismal outcome on low voter turnout.
Joe Anderson, who came in third out of a field of five Republicans with 20% of the vote, also lamented the low number of voters. "I was out by myself in the mist this morning," he said.