Chronicle Election Coverage
Kitchen Heats Up
While the Republicans shivered at what must have increasingly seemed an ill-conceived outdoor party at the other end of Congress, the Democrats partied snugly at the south end of downtown, at the Town Lake Hyatt Regency.
And while the night's cliffhanger races dragged on into the morning, the only contested state legislative race in Austin was over well before the evening news. Ann Kitchen, the Democrats' chosen successor to longtime Austin Rep. Sherri Greenberg in District 48, trounced Republican opponent Jill Warren by a 59% to 37% margin.
After an acrimonious and increasingly bitter campaign, in which Warren, a high tech lawyer who opposed light rail, tax increases, and abortion rights, accused Kitchen of embellishing her public service record, Kitchen's 22-point margin of victory seemed almost anticlimactic. Early Tuesday evening, a relaxed, beaming Kitchen said Warren's negative campaign had backfired against the first-time candidate. "It got really nasty near the end," Kitchen said. "She completely distorted my record. I had lots of people tell me they didn't like those kinds of tactics."
Despite early Democratic worries that Warren would show well in the increasingly conservative District 48, which spans a swath of western and southwestern Travis County, Kitchen's victory was decisive even in early voting -- which typically skews Republican -- where she led by a margin of 14%. "I think I've gotten a lot of votes from Republicans on my record," she said. Kitchen, a longtime player in Austin's environmental movement and an original steering committee member of the Save Our Springs Coalition, ran a campaign based on her experience as a health care consultant for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and a former assistant attorney general in the state AG's office, where she worked on health care litigation. Warren, meanwhile, touted her work as an aide to a state senator and state representative, and as co-chair of a statewide after-school program.
Kitchen's lanky, almost laconic presence will be a marked contrast to Greenberg's slight, constantly in motion silhouette on the House floor. But her priorities, Kitchen said, will remain much the same as the five-term rep's: education, health care, and protecting the city from Austin-bashing legislation. In addition, Kitchen said her top legislative priorities would include "teacher pay, fixing the [funding] formula for AISD, and health care, with a priority on making sure that kids are getting the care they need."