The Austin Chronicle

Election Notes

February 29, 2008, News

Delegates, shmelegates: The real competition among Democratic candidates in Austin has been about cuisine. Two local eateries held competitions to let locals vote with their stomachs on their favored presidential hopeful. Quack's on 43rd Street produced a range of O- and H-shaped shortbread cookies (available with blue icing or red for wavering Republicans). The bakery has been tracking sales and had intended by now to have announced which candidate's crumbly proxy racked up the highest sales. But the political treats are trading so well that the bakery has lengthened the contest by a week, right up to the eve of the primary; as of Monday, Obama was ahead 352 to Hillary's 171. And he's already managed a decisive victory on the burger front. Cypress Bend cafe, across the road from last week's CNN-sponsored debate at the University of Texas, sold 44 Obama Burger (a barbecue bacon cheddar burger) combo meals, compared to 20 Clinton Classic Patty Melts. – Richard Whittaker

• A CNN poll shows that Obama pulled into a narrow lead among Texas voters over Clinton after the Austin debate. The poll of 861 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted Feb. 22-24, shows Obama supported by 50%, with Clinton at 46%. That edge is just outside the 3.5% margin of error and is a swing from a week before when Clinton stood at 50% and Obama at 48%. Interest­ingly, the Dems' preference in candidates is at odds with their concerns on the major issues. Overwhelmingly, in the same poll, Democrats said the top two issues when picking a presidential candidate were the economy (43%) and health care (26%), with the war in Iraq (20%) trailing behind and illegal immigration a distant fourth (6%). Yet, when asked which candidates would handle each issue the best, Clinton got the nod on both the economy (52% to Obama's 45%) and health care (53-45%). Obama was favored on illegal immigration (47-46%) and the war (50-44%). Among 751 likely Republican voters in Texas, Arizona Sen. John McCain – who only needs a handful more delegates to wrap up the nomination – is favored by 56%. – Lee Nichols

• Most likely because of the hot Democratic presidential race, early-voting turnout is like a runaway train here in Texas, especially in Travis Co. As of Monday night, after seven days of early voting, 53,301 voters (or 9.59% of the electorate) had cast a ballot either in person or via mail, easily topping the 32,361 early-voting record for the 2004 primary. And early voting doesn't end until Friday evening (see p.6 for early- and mobile-voting locations). With this huge early turnout, polls will probably be swamped on election day (Tuesday, March 4), and the county could use your help. Travis Co. Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says registered Travis County voters interested in working at the polls (6am-8pm) should e-mail or call 854-4996. – L.N.

• Rules restricting the amount of money spent on Texas House speaker races have been temporarily overturned – just in time for the primaries. On Feb. 26, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued a temporary injunction after a suit was brought by right-wing groups the Free Market Foundation and the Texas Eagle Forum Political Action Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas. This ruling prevents the Texas Ethics Commission from enforcing sections of the Speaker Statute that limit individuals to a budget of $100 for or against any potential speaker candidate and that prevent groups from any such campaigning. ACLU Foundation of Texas legal director Lisa Graybill said, "We're delighted that Judge Yeakel enjoined this unconstitutional law and look forward to elections unimpeded by arbitrary restrictions on free speech." – R.W.

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