The Austin Chronicle

Top 10 Election Stories

By Michael King, Lee Nichols, and Richard Whittaker, January 7, 2011, News

1) RED TIDE The November election was undeniably a landslide for the GOP, nationally and in Texas. The pendulum always swings at midterm, but the intractable recession combined with the tea party backlash produced a double whammy for Democrats, who will be playing defense for the next two years.

2) COURTHOUSE REMAINS NAVY BLUE Although Republicans surged elsewhere, the Travis County courthouse remained a deep shade of navy, with Dem judges taking every bench race.

3) BACK TO THE BOTTOM In 2002, the Democrats lost control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, holding only 62 of 150 seats in the House. They spent the rest of the decade clawing back, finally getting within two seats of the majority in 2008. The 2010 Obama backlash dropped the donkeys to a mind-numbing 49 and gave rise to a slogan: Sisyphus for state rep!

4) LOCAL CASUALTIES National damage to the Democrats hit home, taking down Valinda Bolton in southwest Travis County and first-termer Diana Maldonado in southern Williamson. Even Dripping Springs' Patrick Rose, who had gone from a 2002 narrow victor to a Democratic superstar, couldn't hold back the tide.

5) BLUE SUGAR Lloyd Doggett was a rare bright spot on Election Day, but even he had to sweat. Early returns showed him losing to Columbus physician Donna Campbell, but he finally pulled 53% (after winning previous elections with more than two-thirds). "At least in Travis County, we can say we put a little spoonful of sugar in that bitter brew of the tea party," Doggett told cheering Dems.

6) MOBILITY BONDS PASS See "Top 10 Transportation Stories."

7) THIRD COURT TIPS RIGHT The GOP surge overcame Dem appellate lawyer Kurt Kuhn's bid to replace outgoing Dem Justice Jan Patterson on this intermediate appellate court, landing the bench for former Perry-appointed Travis County Judge Melissa Goodwin. The influential court, which has statewide jurisdiction, is now four Republicans and just two Dems.

8) KAY KRASHES Conventional wisdom said that if anyone could relieve Texas of Rick Perry, it would be not a Democrat but the popular Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, with approval ratings of about 60%. But her primary campaign engine just stalled: She couldn't match the vicious Perry attack machine or pull votes from third wheel Debra Medina, and sputtered to only 30% of the vote.

9) AMAZING INVISIBLE PERRY How to get elected in Texas? Don't let anyone know you're running, and answer no questions. Gov. Goodhair's refusal to debate Democratic challenger Bill White and the former's dodge of editorial boards didn't prevent his victory or his being talked about as a leader of the tea party movement. Now if we could only work out what he stands for ....

10) WEDGE WOMEN Republicans targeted white Democratic women in the House elections, and that campaign struck deep into Travis County. Valinda Bolton lost to former Real Estate Council of Austin board member Paul Workman, who ran a vile campaign smearing the incumbent as soft on sex offenders. Donna Howard kept her seat by a wafer-thin, 12-vote margin, but now she faces an election challenge to be heard by the House to retain her lonely position as the last white female Democrat in the lower chamber.

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