News Top 10s

The Rick Green family
The Rick Green family

Top 10 Local Election moments

1. Driving through the mud: After riding the good government high road for most of the state Dist. 14 Senate campaign -- he could certainly afford to -- Republican challenger and Dellionaire Ben Bentzin swerved sharply into the gutter with a melodramatic COPS arrangement of Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos' year-old drunk-driving arrest. Judging from the election results, the spot backfired, and Bentzin's senatorial ambitions unraveled. Call it what Bentzin did: "a failure of leadership."

2. Bev bows out: Going into the election, she looked like a good bet -- she got far more ballot-qualifying signatures (26,000) than either Daryl Slusher or Jackie Goodman. But only half that many actually cast ballots for her in May. The tag-team "Anyone but Beverly" campaign from challengers Betty Dunkerley and Brewster McCracken left the two-term council member with only 29% of the vote and no stomach for a run-off, so she retired and handed victory to Dunkerley.

3. Republican parity in Travis: Austin may still have a Green Council (insert your own snide Stratus comment here), but we have neighbors here in Travis Co., and they're leaning to the right. Once the redistricting dust settled, our state House delegation had shifted from a 4-1 Democrat advantage to 3-3 parity. In the Commissioners Court, road warrior Gerald Daugherty returned Pct. 3 to Republican hands after a brief hiatus, and incumbent Karen Sonleitner barely survived a challenge in a Pct. 2 that was supposedly more Democratic.

4. Fighting within the tribe: In the battle to be Greener than thou, County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner and City Council Member (and former Chronicle writer) Daryl Slusher were deemed insufficiently loyal to the cause and faced bitter challenges from the left. Both "hits" failed miserably -- Sonleitner obliterated Jeff Heckler in the Democratic primary with 73% of the vote, and Slusher comfortably handled former friend Kirk Mitchell 55% to 27% in the municipal election.

5. Term limits: Lawsuits flew thick and fast in the spring council elections, all turning on the city's 1994 term-limit law. First, the Austin police union went to court to get the charter provision -- and its requirement that incumbents collect thousands of petition signatures -- thrown out. Then, candidates Kirk Mitchell and Linda Curtis filed suits against their respective opponents, incumbents Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman, charging that their signature-gathering efforts violated campaign finance laws and, in Goodman's case, weren't successful in any event. But despite all the ugliness, voters narrowly rejected an attempt to repeal term limits.

6. Change is bad: Publicly financed elections, repeal of term limits, single-member districts, rollback of contribution limits: All were promised as ways to improve our electoral process, and all were shot down -- single-member districts for the sixth time. If a clamor for change exists in Austin, it isn't coming from the voters themselves.

7. Finding the after-Maxey: In the overwhelmingly Democratic House Dist. 51, it was obvious that the Dem primary would determine the replacement for retiring Rep. Glen Maxey. The race turned into a bit of a bruiser between two very qualified candidates, former Maxey aide Eddie Rodriguez and southeast Austin political stalwart Lulu Flores. After trailing in the primary, Rodriguez came back to win the run-off by a mere 117 votes. His former boss, a progressive champion and effective legislator, leaves big shoes to fill.

8. Rick Green loses: During his two terms in the Lege, Dripping Springs state Rep. Rick Green never made a move without first checking the Conservative Stooge Handbook. And even after being named one of the state's 10 worst legislators by Texas Monthly and getting caught giving allegedly improper lobbying help to ephedrine pushers, he retained his arrogant swagger. Hill Country voters served him some humble pie by electing Patrick Rose, a rare bright spot this November for Democrats.

9. Cedar Park on ice: Boosters in Cedar Park hoped to follow Round Rock's athletic lead with a public-private joint venture for a minor league hockey rink and amphitheatre affiliated with the Dallas Stars. Instead, citizens followed Austin's lead and rejected the taxpayer-funded sportsplex deal.

10. Georgetown recall: After a politically contentious 2001, Georgetown voters went to the polls in February and recalled Mayor MaryEllen Kersch. The mayor continued to take flak over the condition of the Dove Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant, and in October former Georgetown City Manager Bob Hart came forward to say that he believes Kersch has been bad-mouthing him to his new bosses in Huntsville (where he became city manager after leaving Georgetown). With or without a dais in front of her, Kersch seems likely to linger on the G'town political scene well into the New Year.The Rick Green family

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