The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2008-03-07/599902/

Here Come the Judges

By Jordan Smith, March 7, 2008, News

Tuesday night was a wild ride – not just for the whales but also for the downballot flounder. Several of the less headline-sexy but important Dem judicial races featured close calls and nail-biters. Here's the roundup:

In the statewide races for Texas Supreme Court, Place 7 candidate Sam Houston (no relation to that guy), a civil attorney from (yup, you guessed it!) eponymous Houston nabbed nearly 56% of the vote over Dallas attorney Baltasar Cruz. He'll face Republican incumbent Justice Dale Wainwright in November. In Supreme Court Place 8, veteran appellate court Justice Linda Yañez pulled out a 51% victory over Galveston District Judge Susan Criss; in November, Yañez will face GOP Justice Phil Johnson.

In the race for Travis County's 353rd Civil District Court, respected veteran attorney and former Travis Co. Dem Chair Scott Ozmun got the nod with 52% of the vote, a much narrower margin than expected. His opponent, Madeleine Connor, graduated from law school relatively recently and, in 2006, ran as a Republican judicial candidate. That Connor nabbed some 48% of the vote, multiple observers theorized, was due to that "woman thing" (a majority of the Dem electorate has been female), although one seasoned campaigner suggested that Ozmun's late TV ads harshly blasting Connor as a stealth Repub­lican might have engendered some backlash.

In any event, the "woman thing" was hardly consistent. For the chance to face off against Gov. Rick Perry-appointed District Judge Melis­sa Goodwin, longtime Travis Co. Magistrate Jim Coronado won against impressive political newcomer Karyl Krug, with 67% of the vote.

For the newly created County Court-at-Law No. 8 spot, defense attorney Carlos Barrera won with a healthy 58% of the vote. Some­what surprisingly, Barrera won the endorsements of both the Chronicle and the daily; nonetheless, the indefatigable and gregarious Assistant County Attorney John Lipscombe seemed favored – with the lion's share of Dem club and other endorsements – to take the prize. He didn't. With no Republican in the CC8 race, Barrera is poised to be only the second sitting Travis Co. criminal jurist with defense bar experience under his belt.

Finally, in the race to replace retiring veteran Judge Jeanne Meurer in the 98th District Court, County Associate Judge Rhonda Hur­ley took it early, with just over 60% of the vote. The field of three candidates – Hurley, Associate Judge Andy Hathcock, and attorney Robert Ettinger – was impressive and, heading into Tuesday, most race-watchers suspected that the race between Hurley and Hathcock would be close. Even Hurley didn't anticipate her margin of victory: "I was pleased, but I was surprised," she said. "A little bit shocked even." After 11pm, she said she was still waiting to see "that bottom line" in "black and white." Hurley is both energetic and modest – not the easiest balance for a political candidate. "I ran for this not because I wanted to but because I felt it was the right thing to do. It just felt right; you just can't explain that," she said. And now? "I'm really ready to get back to work."


Supreme Court, Place 7

Sam Houston:
County 69,198 (54.6%)
State 1,126,105 (55.9%)

Baltasar D. Cruz:
County 57,567 (45.4%)
State 887,520 (44.1%)


Supreme Court, Place 8

Linda Reyna Yañez:
County 71,601 (57.0%)
State 1,028,106 (51.4%)

Susan Criss:
County 54,051 (43.0%)
State 971,473 (48.6%)


District Judge, 98th

Rhonda Hurley: 73,641 (60.2%)

Andy Hathcock: 29,589 (24.2%)

Robert Ettinger: 19,180 (15.7%)


District Judge, 353rd

Scott Ozmun: 64,942 (51.7%)

Madeleine Connor: 60,607 (48.3%)


District Judge, 427th

Jim Coronado: 80,940 (66.6%)

Karyl Anderson Krug: 40,551 (33.4%)


County Court at Law No. 8

Carlos Barrera: 72,817 (58.0%)

John Lipscombe: 52,680 (42.0%)

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