Primary Prospects

A rundown of primary election battles shaping up

Charlie Baird
Charlie Baird (Photo by John Anderson)

It takes a brave candidate to file for office when no one knows what the districts will look like, but that is exactly how the 2012 primary elections are shaping up. Filing for the April 3 primaries closed on Dec. 19, 2011, but the ongoing fight over which maps will be used (see "More Confusion in Redistricting Case") means the state will reopen filing after the final redistricting decision is made. That's good news for candidates, who can file, refile in a different district, or drop out completely with no loss of their filing fees. The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 9 heard arguments on district boundaries for this year's legislative and congressional races. So far the Repub­lic­an, Democratic, and Libertarian parties have all announced their provisional slates for Travis County, while the Green Party of Texas closed its candidate application process Jan. 2 and has yet to release its list.

(* Denotes incumbent)

State House

HD 46 D: Dawnna Dukes*

HD 47 R: Paul Workman*, Ryan Downton; D: Chris Frandsen

HD 48 D: Donna Howard*; R: Robert Thomas; L: Joe Edgar

HD 49 D: Elliott Naishtat*

HD 50 D: Mark Strama*; L: Raul "Roy" Camacho

HD 51 D: Eddie Rodriguez*; L: Arthur DiBianca

Another slow year in Travis County's six-seat delegation. Of the five Democratic incumbents, two are looking at a clean run back into office while two more have drawn only Libertarian challengers, so look to western Travis County for the big fights. In House District 47, incumbent Republican and former Real Estate Council of Austin board member Workman is being called a liberal by his primary opponent, tort lawyer Downton – expect Downton's role as general counsel to the House Redistricting Committee to come up. Whoever survives that fight will face U.S. Army veteran Frandsen in the general election. Next door in HD 48, Howard avoids a primary fight but will face a general election challenge from business consultant Thomas, a former lawyer with connections to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Libertarian businessman Edgar.

State Senate

SD 14 D: Kirk Watson*; L: Ryan Dixon

SD 21 D: Judith Zaffirini*; L: Joseph Morse

SD 24 R: Troy Fraser*

SD 25 R: Jeff Wentworth*, Elizabeth Ames Jones, Donna Campbell; L: Edward Carta

Travis County goes from two Senate districts to four, and the bizarre gerrymandering (presuming it stays in place) means some Aus­tinites could find their Senate district offices as far away as Horseshoe Bay (Fras­er) or Laredo (Zaffirini). In the most unexpected fight of the season, it turns out that San Antonio-based Wentworth is no longer conservative enough for his own party, with failed 2010 congressional hopeful Camp­bell and ex-Railroad Commissioner Jones both courting tort-reform PAC endorsements.

U.S. Congress

CD 10 R: Michael McCaul*, Ernie Beltz Jr.; D: Dan Grant; L: Richard Priest

CD 21 R: Lamar Smith*; D: Elaine Henderson; L: James Arthur Strohm

CD 25 D: Lloyd Doggett*; R: Wes Riddle, Dianne Costa, Dave Garrison, Justin Hewlett, Brian Matthews, Chad Wilbanks, Michael Williams, Bill Burch; L: Scott J. Ballard

Rosemary Lehmberg
Rosemary Lehmberg (Photo by John Anderson)

If the Supreme Court keeps the San Antonio court's provisional maps, there will be three Travis congressional seats; if it reverts to the Legislature's plan, there will be five. So far, veteran Democrat Doggett has submitted his paperwork in CD 25 for his 10th term and can study the crowded GOP primary (eight candidates and counting). Up in CD 10, international elections expert and State Department consultant Grant is taking a shot at GOP incumbent McCaul and is banking that the new map, which anchors the district more heavily in North Austin, is more winnable. Over in the new-look CD 21, political newcomer Henderson is running against Smith, who faces tech-sector wrath for his authorship of the Internet censorship measures buried in the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Travis County Seats

District Attorney D: Rosemary Lehmberg*, Charlie Baird

County Court at Law No. 8 D: Carlos Barrera*

Tax Assessor-Collector D: Stanley J. Wilson, Bruce Elfant; R: Vik Vad

County Commissioner

• Precinct 1 D: Ron Davis*, Richard Franklin III, Victor Gonzales, Arthur Sampson,

• Precinct 3 D: Karen Huber*, Albert Gonzales; R: Gerald Daugherty, Jim Strickland, Ira Yates

Sheriff D: Greg Hamilton*, John Sisson; R: Raymond Frank


• Precinct 1 D: Danny Thomas*, Carl Lee Cannon Jr.

Precinct 2 D: Adan Ballesteros*, Michael Cargill; R: Al Herrera, Toby Miller

• Precinct 3 D: Richard McCain*, Sally Hernandez; R: Mike Varela

• Precinct 4 D: Maria Canchola*, Ernest Pedrazza

• Precinct 5 D: Carlos B. Lopez

Elfant's decision to run to replace longtime Tax Assessor-Collector Nelda Wells Spears (now retired) adds to an already tumultuous Democratic primary season, with almost every incumbent facing at least one challenger. Expect the toughest fights in the district attorney race, where former judge Baird has been swinging for the fences on Lehmberg's alleged institutional complacency; the Precinct 2 constable race, where controversial incumbent Ballesteros faces tough scrutiny over old allegations; and county commissioner Precinct 1, where incumbent Davis faces a triple attack.

Other Races To Watch

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 1 R: Sharon Keller*, Lawrence "Larry" Meyers; D: Keith Hampton

167th District Court D: Bryan Case, Efrain de la Fuente, David Wahlberg

Williamson County District Attorney R: John Bradley*, Jana Duty; D: Ken Crain

The CCA remains a Republican redoubt, though longtime Democrat and criminal defense attorney Hampton is determined to change that with a run for Keller's presiding seat. But first, Place 2 Republican Meyers mounts a primary challenge to controversial Keller. The 167th is the highest-profile local judicial race, with longtime prosecutors Case and de la Fuente facing experienced defense attorney Wahlberg. The WilCo D.A. race is likely to be lively, with embattled incumbent Bradley challenged by obstreperous County Attorney Duty for the right to face Dem attorney Crain, in part under the slogan, "No More Michael Mortons."

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