More Dem Candidates for Judge
Contenders begin jockeying for the March Democratic primary
Last week we kicked off coverage of the spring Democratic primary race for what ultimately will be three open seats on Travis County's criminal court bench. There will be several contenders for the 147th District Court felony bench (to be vacated by retiring Judge Wilford Flowers) and the County Court at Law No. 3 misdemeanor seat, when current occupant Judge David Crain steps down to run for Flowers' seat (a move he's expected to make in January). This week, we pick up where we left off.
In the race for Flowers' seat, Democratic contenders Crain and Cliff Brown, currently the city's appointed police monitor, will also face current Assistant District Attorney Karen Sage (www.karensageforjudge.com). Sage joined the D.A.'s Office in 2006 and now runs the office's mental health docket. Prior to moving to Texas, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York and in the 1990s as counsel to the mayor of Los Angeles. She has started off by donating $10,200 of her own money to her campaign (to show she's serious about the run, says campaign manager Jim Wick), and she already counts some stalwart Austin Dems and local elected officials among her support – including gay rights lobbyist Bettie Naylor, City Council Member Bill Spelman, and Rep. Mark Strama – along with a contingent of prosecutor colleagues, including former and current yogurt shop prosecutors Darla Davis and Efrain de la Fuente. Sage will officially kick off her campaign tonight (Thursday, Sept. 3) at 5:30pm at Chez Zee.
In the race to fill Crain's seat on County Court No. 3, veteran Assistant County Attorney John Lipscombe will face Olga Seelig, an associate Municipal Court judge, in the Dem primary. Lipscombe (www.johnforjudge.com) has been prosecuting misdemeanor crimes since 1990. He's married to the popular County Court at Law No. 6 Judge Jan Breland and was an indefatigable candidate last year for the newly created County Court at Law No. 8 spot. Although he collected the lion's share of Dem club endorsements, he lost the seat to criminal defense attorney Carlos Barrera. This time around, Lipscombe has already raised considerable money (just more than $24,000) and boasts a long list of influential supporters – among them former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd, current County Commissioner Karen Huber, and a raft of prominent courthouse denizens, such as attorneys Steve Brittain and Betty Blackwell.
A third race is also under way, for County Court at Law No. 6, which will be vacated in 2010 by Breland. One sure candidate has so far emerged: former prosecutor Brandy Mueller, who has already banked more than $44,000 for the race. Mueller (www.muellerforjudge.com) worked as a prosecutor of both misdemeanor and felony crimes (first as an assistant county attorney and then as an assistant district attorney) before turning to criminal defense work in 2007. Her bank is backed with an equally impressive roster of supporters – including former City Council Member Jennifer Kim, Travis Co. Sheriff Greg Hamilton, a raft of longtime prosecutors with the D.A.'s Office (among them Judy Shipway and Gail Van Winkle), and former county attorney right-hand man turned solo practitioner Randy Leavitt.
With no Republican contenders yet joining the fray (for the long-shot chance of turning one of the county's benches red), the race for both court seats will likely be decided in the March 2 Dem primary.