The Austin Chronicle

Run-off Roundup

District 47: Welch vs. Bolton

By Amy Smith, April 14, 2006, News

The female factor may be Bill Welch's biggest headache as the newly tapped Republican nominee enters the final round for the House District 47 seat. He's been down this road before, without much luck. Welch handily beat GOP run-off rival Alex Castano Tuesday with 55% of the vote, while his new opponent – Democrat Valinda Bolton – emerged the clear victor over run-off hopeful Jason Earle. Despite entering the race with instant name ID as the son of District Attorney Ronnie Earle, and despite having the financial backing of some of the biggest movers and shakers in local and state politics, the younger Earle took just 33% of the vote to Bolton's 67%. On the Republican side, Welch's supporters had privately hoped to face Earle, not Bolton, in November. That's because Bolton has more than the "woman thing" going for her; she is a strong candidate who exudes easygoing confidence on the campaign trail. She will be the second woman Welch has challenged for the HD 47 seat, having lost, by a few heartbreaking whiskers, to former Rep. Susan Combs in 1992. (Combs, a Republican, is now the state agriculture commissioner and candidate for state comptroller.) In the upcoming Bolton-Welch contest, we could see both candidates try to strike a more centrist stance on issues to try to win the hearts and votes of folks who live in this southwest Travis County district, one of three local swing districts and one of two that rejected the November proposition to ban same-sex marriages in Texas. In the primary, Bolton remained true to her liberal progressive roots while Welch shifted further to the right to better compete with Castano and his religious right platform. But Castano's conservative values apparently were too extreme for this middle-of-the-road district, and indeed his ideological views may have hurt him more than published reports of his personal financial debt. Late in the campaign, legal documents dropped off at the Chronicle (anonymously, of course), showed that three credit card companies had won judgments against Castano, who says he's working to pay off his $35,000 debt.

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