Benedict Whipped

Place 4

"The grandma is gonna whip my butt!" The outcome of the Place 4 race was evident to a resigned but good-humored challenger Wes Benedict by 8pm Saturday night, when the early voting returns and the first round of election day tallies showed incumbent Betty Dunkerley pushing 60%, and Benedict barely brushing 18%. Benedict had been realistic about his chances throughout the race, but he admitted on Saturday night, "I was certainly hoping to do better than 18." He had been the most active and serious challenger to Dunkerley, and was hoping to make a stronger dent in her support, with a campaign focused hard against toll roads and city subsidies for corporations – and in the late weeks, against what he charged were Dunkerley's violations of city campaign finance laws.

By the end of the night Benedict had garnered 18.25%, a tough descent from the 35% he collected in his 2003 race against Danny Thomas. This was a different matchup and different night. He could take some comfort in having developed enough support to do better than single-issue bar owner John Wickham, novice candidate P. Byron Miller, and even the ubiquitous Jennifer Gale – who held solitary court over at county election headquarters, insisting to anyone with a microphone or notebook that she was going to win.

Later that night, at his election-watching party at JC's Steakhouse, Benedict said that the state complaints he filed against Dunkerley with the Texas Ethics Commission, charging inaccurate filings and illegal contributions dating back to 2002, will remain active before the commission. "The lawsuit is another matter," he said, referring to his suit filed last week against the Austin Police Association PAC and the Real Estate Council of Austin PAC for campaign finance violations and "laundering" contributions. "That will depend on the generosity of the lawyers involved – they're working pro bono, and I can't afford to pay them."

In addition to Toll Party leaders Sal Costello and Linda Curtis, also on hand at the steakhouse was Place 1 candidate Casey Walker, watching the numbers pile up for Place 1 victor Lee Leffingwell. Bill Holloway of the Travis Co. Green Party paid a visit, noting that the local Greens had endorsed Benedict because they agreed with his positions "against the toll roads and against corporate welfare." Holloway said he was disappointed that Benedict and Greens' Place 1 endorsee Andrew Bucknall were fairing so poorly – "but I'm heartened that Margot Clarke is doing so well in Place 3."

The party was not without celebration. Just before 10pm, local Libertarian stalwart and state party chair Pat Dixon entered to a small but enthusiastic ovation. He had just been elected in a landslide to the Lago Vista City Council, defeating the incumbent with 68% (650 votes) and said to be the first Libertarian to win a contested Central Texas race. "That'll be the big news for the Libertarians," concluded Benedict with a smile. "My loss is no big deal."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

City Council elections, City Council, election, Wes Benedict, Betty Dunkerley, John Wickham, P. Byron Miller, Jennifer Gale, JC Steakhouse, Bill Holloway, Green Party, Pat Dixon, Lago Vista

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