The 'Chronicle' Endorsements
April 13 primary run-offs – early voting April 5-9
Although there are quite a few primary run-off races across the state (11 Democratic, 25 Republican), only a handful are on Travis County ballots: one Democratic, three Republican, and a precinct chair. Primary run-offs generally draw very few voters, so your vote will carry additional weight; please take the time to vote – and to do so wisel
299th District Court: Karen Sage
The four-way 299th choice didn't become much easier for local Democrats when it was winnowed to two candidates. Both Sage and Mindy Montford (as we've said before) have engaging qualities of experience, knowledge, personal history, and desire for innovation – including solid prosecutorial backgrounds, good ideas for improving the court system, and a sufficient range of experience to make a successful judgeship. Montford seems to have stronger (or at least more visible) support among party heavyweights, while Sage has earned a reputation for her well-organized grassroots campaign. Other distinguishing details: Sage's progressive activism stretches back to the late Paul Wellstone's 1990 Senate campaign in Minnesota, and she's actively involved in the county's innovative mental health docket; as a prosecutor, Montford worked on the Tom DeLay case among many others, and she more recently had a brief run-in with the Austin Police Department that should provide a personal education in the limits of law enforcement. In that context, we're a bit perplexed that both run-off campaigns seem to have focused on volleys over "Who got here first?" nativism and one-up-woman-ship. That's undeniably politics – we think both of these candidates are fine people, but again, on balance, in light of the broad range of her experience here and elsewhere and her demonstrated seriousness of purpose, our recommendation goes to Sage.
Supreme Court Justice, Place 3: Debra Lehrmann
Chronicle-phobes like to tell us they learn from our endorsements whom not to support. On that logic, we suppose we should endorse former state Rep. Rick Green, in order to lull Republicans into voting for his opponent. But we don't think all GOP voters are that credulous, and serious Republicans and their political organizations should be duly alarmed at the prospect of the totally unqualified and ideologically extremist Green landing on the state's highest civil court. (They might also be worried that nominating Green makes a November Democratic victory much more likely.) Based on his history as a do-nothing House member – and, on the sideline, as a shill for useless nutritional supplements – we frankly believe motivational speaker Green is more opportunist than ideologue. He's found a new market among fundamentalist fanatics and is happy to sell them more hard-right snake oil. The plain facts are that conservative district judge and family law expert Lehrmann is thoroughly qualified to be a state Supreme Court justice, and Green is utterly unqualified for any elected office, let alone the Supreme Court. If GOP voters care about the future of their party, nominating Lehrmann is a chance to show it.
State Board of Education, District 10: Marsha Farney
As we wrote earlier, the defining distinction in SBOE races has shifted from "Dem vs. GOP" to "Crazy vs. Not Crazy." The Republican ouster of former chair and champion of ignorance Don McLeroy by an active supporter of public education, Thomas Ratliff, suggests that even GOP voters can only stomach so much foolishness and that moderates have risen to challenge the board's fundamentalist bloc. The District 10 race is in part a referendum on the dreadful single term of anti-public school propagandist Cynthia Dunbar; she handpicked fellow right-wing ideologue Brian Russell as her successor. Russell laments McLeroy's defeat, homeschools his own children, and is determined to continue the conservative culture war on public education. We recommend instead former teacher Farney, who holds a doctorate in education and has run a nonideological, education-based campaign to face Democrat Judy Jennings in November.
State House District 47: No Endorsement
GOP voters in Southwest Travis County are faced with poor choices: contractor and former Real Estate Council of Austin board member Paul Workman has gone pointlessly negative, while business attorney Holly Turner has shown no campaigning vigor. Beyond knee-jerk conservative commentaries on cutting property taxes and occasional attempts to slur incumbent Democrat Valinda Bolton as an "ultra-liberal," neither has presented anything approaching a real platform for the needs of the district.