Top 10 Election Stories
This year wasn't just about the November ballot, but that was a very big (literally) part too
1) Obama, the Sequel Overcoming a weak but recovering economy and a weaker GOP field, President Barack Obama won a second term with substantial electoral and popular vote margins. He faces a still-polarized Congress, and his legacy may depend on 2013. He took 70% of the Texas Latino vote, leaving Republicans scrabbling for candidates who can survive when voter turnout finally becomes minority-majority.
2) Voters Back Pot Voters in Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults, bringing to a close some seven decades of marijuana prohibition. The new state laws will legalize, regulate, and tax pot use. What remains to be seen is how the feds will react.
3) Double Trouble A prolonged redistricting court fight doubled up the early May city election with the rescheduled late May primaries, leading to much voter confusion, smaller than normal turnout – and a very glum David Dewhurst, who lost to former Solicitor General Ted Cruz in a contest distinguished by its willfully ignorant pandering. Cruz went on to easily defeat underfunded Dem Paul Sadler.
4) Baird and Lehmberg Duke It Out Former district Judge Charlie Baird gave veteran Travis County prosecutor Rosemary Lehmberg a run for her money in the Democratic primary this spring, putting front and center in his campaign questions of racial justice and equity within the criminal justice system. The matchup was heated and at times not very pretty. In the end, Lehmberg easily secured herself a second term.
5) AISD New Wave School board elections are seldom high profile – but November was an exception, as insurgents opposing the district's charter policies upset the incumbents and transformed the board. See "Top 10 Education Stories."
6) Familiar Faces In contentious but predictable outcomes, four incumbents – Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mike Martinez, Sheryl Cole, and Bill Spelman – returned to City Council, in what turned out to be the last spring city election: Voters also moved future contests to November. See "Top 10 City Council Stories."
7) The More Things Change ... Despite redistricting and some bitter primaries, Travis County voters returned Lloyd Doggett to Congress, Rosemary Lehmberg as D.A., Ron Davis to Commissioners Court, Greg Hamilton as sheriff, and promoted Bruce Elfant to Tax Assessor-Collector.
8) But Not Precinct Three Incumbent County Commissioner Karen Huber was defeated by returnee Gerald Daugherty, in a race that boiled down to precinct redistricting and the suburban demand for roads, roads, roads. Let 'em buy their own.
9) Newly Chartered On the seventh try, voters endorsed City Council districting ("10-1" over "8-2-1"), an independent districting commission, other cleanup election changes, and civil service rights for city employees. They balked only at moving the city attorney under Council and extending campaign fundraising time limits. See "Top 10 City Council Stories."
10) Strongly Bonded Of seven proposed city bonds, only one – to support affordable housing – failed. But Austinites endorsed funding for transportation, parks, public safety, open space, and libraries – bucking state trends against public investment. Voters also endorsed Proposition 1, a health care district property tax hike that will help fund a new medical school and draw down Medicaid dollars to expand local services.