Casar Thumps Pressley
Bitter D4 race's lopsided result
There was a bit of celebratory torch-passing late at the Greg Casar District 4 watch party, at the northside, I-35 frontage road Taqueria Arandinas. Congressman Lloyd Doggett had stopped by to wish the candidate well, and Casar introduced him to the crowd, noting that at one time, Doggett had also been considered "too young" to become a public official. In 1973, at the tender age of 26, Doggett had been elected to the Texas Senate; more than 40 years later, he represents his third Congressional district (35), and wryly told the Chronicle he had indeed been 26 "two or three years ago."
"Too young" had been one of the less volatile charges thrown at Casar by run-off opponent Laura Pressley, who had arrived second in the first round on the strength of a stealth campaign that emphasized neighborhoods and affordability while side-stepping her longtime advocacy of anti-fluoridation, anti-gun control, and woolier theories of electronic side-effects and 9/11 conspiracies. As the campaign weeks proceeded, all that baggage tumbled into the open – and Pressley counterattacked by accusing Casar of lying, putting D4 up for sale to Downtown interests, of "lobbying" (on behalf of workers' rights), even of "atheism" – all with seemingly little effect, unless it was to Casar's advantage.
Tuesday's early vote returns gave him a 30-point lead, and that didn't much change over the evening, closing with Casar's 65% to 35% victory. (As of Wednesday afternoon, Pressley had not contacted Casar to concede, nor had she responded to Chronicle calls requesting comment on the outcome.)
Tuesday night, Casar attributed his victory less to specific issues – affordability, traffic congestion, or the other "buzz words" of the citywide campaign – than to the engagement of his grassroots campaign outreach. "More than any one policy issue ... what resonated with voters was feeling respected enough that we were asking them what they felt, and showing that we were really listening."
Acknowledging that his was a "novice campaign," Casar said that he'd been learning from district voters that they didn't expect "easy solutions to complicated problems," but that he needed to "reach out to the whole district and the whole city [and] harness that new energy and new voices, to find ways to address the challenges that Austin faces." (A couple of youthful "new voices" interrupted him for congratulations and to playfully intone the Spider-Man code: "With great power comes great responsibility!")
Casar dismissed the recent Pressley attacks as in keeping with the whole of her campaign, although he said that earlier the hard shots were mostly confined to online message boards and the like. "Nothing in that surprised me," he said.
On Tuesday night, he hadn't been monitoring closely the mayoral outcome, although he understood that Steve Adler had won. He recalled that Adler and he had gotten lunch at the same taqueria earlier in the campaign, and said he stands ready to work with the mayor-elect. "I'm excited to work with Steve," he said. "I'm excited to find ways to move the district forward."