Brigid Shea's supporters had just started gathering at Scholz Garten to watch the election returns when the early vote results handed an early victory to the Precinct 2 Travis County commissioner candidate.
A couple of months ago, a run-off appeared possible in the three-way race that included immigration attorney Richard Jung and longtime Democratic activist Garry Brown, but that dynamic changed a few weeks ago when the Shea campaign broke from the pack to try to win without a run-off.
Shea took 65% in early voting, gained a bigger bump on Election Day, and ended the night with 66%, followed by Jung with over 19% and Brown with 15%. "I'm so humbled," Shea said, crediting her campaign staff, "an army of volunteers," and her family for helping her secure the seat that Sarah Eckhardt vacated last year to run for county judge, and that is currently occupied by interim Commissioner Bruce Todd.
While there were some minor flare-ups between the competing candidates, the hopefuls mainly stuck to issues important to the Central and North Austin precinct and the county at large. "I said all along that my opponents really are good guys, and I mean it," Shea said. "I think they both conducted themselves well. There were a few moments of friction but by and large [the race] was very civil and I think they made their case well."
Shea, of course, entered the race with the higher profile, having challenged Mayor Lee Leffingwell's reelection bid in 2012. She served one term as a city council member after successfully leading a 1992 voter referendum to pass the Save Our Springs ordinance to protect Barton Springs, and remained active in community issues.
Water, and the region's shrinking supply, was also a theme of her campaign this time. But Shea says her first order of business is to tackle affordability, specifically the skewed state law that places a greater property tax burden on homeowners than on commercial property owners. "A tremendous amount of work needs to be done leading up to the next legislative session," she said. "I have lost track of the number of people who've told me they're going to have to sell their house and move. People can't afford to pay their taxes because the system is broken."
In another, less competitive commissioner's race, Precinct 4 incumbent Margaret Gómez handily fended off challenger Darla Wegner with 73% of the vote.
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