Two Democrats with doctoral degrees – Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Judy Jennings – filed for the State Board of Education Monday in the seats that include Austin: Districts 5 (south of the river, down to San Antonio) and 10 (north of the river and out toward Houston). They did so with the blessing of someone experienced in running for both seats: Austin state Rep. Donna Howard, who had failed runs for 10 in 2000 and 5 in 2002 before winning a spot in the Legislature in 2006. "Making the State Board of Education more accountable and less ideological has been one of my top priorities, and I'm pleased to support candidates who share that goal," she said. District 5 candidate Bell-Metereau, a Texas State University-San Marcos professor, hopes to unseat San Antonio's Ken Mercer, a vocal opponent of the theory of evolution. Mercer faces Tim Tuggey in the Republican primary, while Bell-Metereau faces Robert Bohmfalk and former mayoral candidate Josiah Ingalls. District 10's Jennings hopes to replace Richmond's Cynthia Dunbar, who has announced she will not seek to retain her seat. Dunbar also was a key figure in the fundamentalist fight against evolution that made Texas a national laughingstock earlier this year. GOPers Rebecca Osborne and Brian Russell will primary to face Jennings. – Lee Nichols
Everybody's doing the do-si-do in the Democratic primaries. Kinky Friedman made friends in the party rank and file by dropping out of the governor's race, clearing the path for a showdown between Houston Mayor Bill White and Houston hair-care tycoon Farouk Shami, both of whom have now filed. Friedman then dropped into the agriculture commissioner's race, annoying rancher Hank Gilbert, who had made exactly the same jump a week earlier. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, was this week's sole filer in the Travis County delegation. – Richard Whittaker
Early endorsements in the race for the Precinct 4 seat on the Travis County Commissioners Court are solid indicators of a hotly contested Democratic primary race ahead for four-term incumbent Margaret Gomez and challenger Raul Alvarez. Political action groups typically begin rolling out their endorsements after the filing deadline – Jan. 4, 2010, in this case – but five influential public safety unions have already come out in support of Gomez: the political action committees of the Austin-Travis County EMS Employees Association, the Austin Police Association, the Travis County Sheriffs' Law Enforcement Association, the county Sheriff's Officers Association, and the county Firefighters Association. Another powerful labor group – the Austin-based American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1624 – is slated to endorse its candidate Jan. 9, 2010, according to Jack Kirfman, the group's political action coordinator. It's no secret the union has been unhappy with Gomez's job performance, both as a commissioner and as a member and chair of the Capital Metro board. Alvarez, on the other hand, had strong backing from the group during his time on the City Council, where he served two terms starting in 2000. Alvarez spent the early part of this week on a fundraising sweep, which included a fundraiser Wednesday hosted by former Mayor Will Wynn. – Amy Smith
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