'Chronicle' Endorsements

Nov. 2 general election

Here we go again.

In the last couple of decades, Travis County voters have become accustomed to a topsy-turvy ballot on which the statewide officeholders are invariably Republican and the local incumbents almost exclusively Democrats. For Austinites, it's an occasion for smugness or despair (or both). The ballot for 2010 is much the same; after some of us see stalwart Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett at the top of the ballot, voters will descend (depending on their districts) to roughly the 20th race listed – state senator, District 14 – before they recognize a Democratic candidate (Kirk Watson), likely to be re-elected. Below Watson, with a couple of exceptions, it's mostly a blue Democratic wash.

For endorsement purposes at a progressive weekly, it's also an exercise in simultaneous predictability and frustration. Our national and state politics have become so ideologically polarized, there is very little opportunity – or reason – to "judge the candidate, not the party." Over the last decade, the Texas GOP, led by Gov. Rick Perry, has consistently and expressly stood for 1) corporate business priorities to the neglect of working people and ordinary citizens, 2) indifference or antagonism toward public institutions (especially public education), 3) contempt for minorities and minority opinion on social values, and 4) disdain for any constitutional obligation of government to promote the general welfare. Texas Democrats, for better or worse (and there has been plenty of both), are the institutional political voice of the state's working people, its now-majority minority population, and those institutions and programs – public education, social justice, environmental protection – that are either opposed by or simply not priorities for the state's Republican rulers.

That means that, although we don't recommend a straight-ticket, with few exceptions we almost inevitably endorse Democratic candidates for state offices to start to undermine the current GOP monopoly. At the local level, by contrast, the hard choices were in the Democratic primary, leaving only a few seriously contested general races – and none where we can honestly recommend the Republican. (Note: We offer endorsements only in contested races.)

Finally, while we've got no grand philosophical quarrel with those voters who decide to bolt in protest and support either the Libertarians or the Greens, under current political circumstances, we believe to do so is also a decision that effectively endorses and sustains the political status quo.

Top of the Ballot: Congress

U.S. Rep., District 10: Ted Ankrum
U.S. Rep., District 21: Lainey Melnick
U.S. Rep., District 25: Lloyd Doggett

No change is likely here, and Doggett should easily win re-election in a Republican year, but it would be encouraging to see Ankrum and Melnick make a local dent in GOP dominance.

Governor Through Railroad Commissioner

Governor: Bill White
Lieutenant Governor: Linda Chavez-Thompson
Attorney General: Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Comptroller: Edward Lindsay (Green)
Land Commissioner: Hector Uribe
Agriculture Commissioner: Hank Gilbert
Railroad Commissioner: Jeff Weems

White represents the first real shot to unseat Perry in a decade, and he understands the need to address the state's fiscal and economic crisis. Chavez-Thompson would bring a breath of working-class fresh air into the Capitol. In the no-Dem comptroller's race, retired educator Lindsay has a shot at maintaining the Greens' ballot eligibility if he garners 5%.

Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals

Supreme Court, Place 3: Debra Lehrmann (Republican)
Supreme Court, Place 5: Bill Moody
Supreme Court, Place 9: Blake Bailey
CCA, Place 2: No endorsement
CCA, Place 5: Cheryl Johnson (Republican)
CCA, Place 6: Keith Hampton

The Republican lock on state judicial races is lamentable and needs radical changing; our most full-throated endorsements are for Judge Moody for the Supreme Court and Austin defense lawyer Hampton to begin fixing the Court of Criminal Appeals. Republicans Lehrmann and Johnson have served honorably, and Place 3 Democrat Jim Sharp lost our endorsement by gratuitously trashing the party's standard-bearers in an interview with the Statesman, basically expressing contempt for Bill White and Linda Chavez-Thompson (as well as the labor movement).

State Board of Education

District 5: Rebecca Bell-Metereau
District 10: Judy Jennings

The SBOE is currently dominated by paleoconservative wingnuts bent on keeping public education in the Dark Ages; Travis County voters need to help change this situation. In District 5, educator Bell-Metereau is running against another anti-education ideologue; in District 10, Republican Marsha Farney led primary voters to believe she's a "common sense conservative" but has since given reason to doubt whether she'll stand up to the far right, and Jennings will.

State Senate and House

State Senator, District 14: Kirk Watson
State Senator, District 25: No endorsement
State Rep., District 46: Dawnna Dukes
State Rep., District 47: Valinda Bolton
State Rep., District 48: Donna Howard
State Rep., District 49: Elliott Naishtat
State Rep., District 50: Mark Strama
State Rep., District 51: Eddie Rodriguez
State Rep., District 52: Diana Maldonado

The only real races here are in House Districts 47 and 48, where Bolton and Howard have worked hard to earn the support of Travis County voters. In Williamson County, the GOP is trying to recapture District 52, but we encourage voters to support Diana Maldonado for another term. Senate District 25 incumbent Jeff Wentworth is virtually certain to step down post-election, forcing a December special election. He has no Democratic opponent; the Libertarian candidate, Arthur Maxwell Thomas IV, opposes public health care and public education.

Judicial Races

3rd Court of Appeals, Place 4: Kurt Kuhn
353rd Judicial District Judge: Tim Sulak

In the contentious 3rd Court of Appeals race, we have been disappointed by Melissa Goodwin's run to the hard right, and we believe Kuhn will maintain necessary balance on the court. The only contested district judge race (353rd), is frankly a tough call: Perry-appointed incumbent Jeff Rose is qualified and fair-minded, as is Democrat Tim Sulak – Sulak narrowly remains our choice.

County Races

County Judge: Sam Biscoe
District Clerk: Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza
County Clerk: Dana DeBeauvoir
County Treasurer: Dolores Ortega Carter
County Commissioner, Pct. 2: Sarah Eckhardt
County Commissioner, Pct. 4: Margaret Gómez
Justice of the Peace, Pct. 1: Yvonne Williams
Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2: Karin Crump
Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3: Susan Steeg
Justice of the Peace, Pct. 4: Raúl Arturo González
Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5: Herb Evans

County government is generally well-administered if not visionary, and Judge Biscoe has earned another term, as has Commissioner Eckhardt, whose opponent, David Buttross, shows signs of being both a tea partier and a perennial candidate. We've endorsed the lackluster Gómez resignedly – as her Libertarian opponent advocates "market solutions" to every problem – but a strong protest vote in that race would certainly be understandable.

City of Austin Proposition 1: Yes

"The issuance of $90,000,000 in tax supported general obligation bonds and notes for ... roads and streets ... sidewalks, bikeways, and other bicycle and pedestrian mobility infrastructure ... and the levy of tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes."

The "Austin Mobility Bond" is an admittedly modest step toward a truly multimodal regional transportation system that directs resources toward alternative forms of transportation in addition to basic roadways – the latter, in fact, having largely reached potential capacity within the central city. We support this interim bond measure, and we support the city's overall attempt to redirect transportation resources in a multimodal direction; the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be and the more it will cost. Austin's transportation political history is littered with missed opportunities; the Mobility Bond is a cost-effective, broadly based attempt to get moving again in the right direction.

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