Election Ticker: From the Council Dais to Round Rock

Endorsements are rolling in for March 2020 Primary


Julie Oliver (Courtesy of fb.com/juliefortexas)

Dueling Members A couple of City Council members have weighed in on the TX-25 Democratic primary battle between Julie Oliver and Heidi Sloan. Sloan got the nod from Dis­trict 4 CM (and fellow Democratic Socialist) Greg Casar, while Oliver announced the support of former D1 CM Ora Houston. In a statement, Sloan called Casar a "role model" for organizing and governing, and Casar said, "Heidi will be much more than just a member of Congress. She's building a movement." Oliver called Houston a "fiercely independent" voice on Council, committed to listening to the community she served, unafraid to stand up for them every single day. "I'm inspired by her leadership, her strength, and her courage." On Wednesday, Oliver also added CM Jimmy Flannigan to her supporters list...

Big Hitters for D.A. Moore In the race for Travis County District Attorney (or at least the Democratic nomination), incumbent Margaret Moore has started to roll out endorsements from Dem bold-faced names. Her website lists dozens, headlined by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, state Sen. Kirk Wat­son, Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Sarah Eck­hardt, County Attorney David Escamilla, and a host of others, electeds and otherwise. Recently, the campaign has featured "Endorsement Shout-Outs!" – lengthy emails of support. Eckhardt's "shout-out" acknowledges the current public emphasis on "Criminal Justice Reform" and says Moore is the candidate who can best deliver it: "Bookings are down," she writes. "Jail population is down. Felony convictions for drug offenses are down. And diversion to effective drug treatment programs is up." She adds pointedly that Moore has "successfully prosecuted more sexual assault cases than the courts have seen in years." In his shout-out, Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder focuses on Moore's creation of a Civil Rights Unit and related Advisory Council to address discriminatory law enforcement. He calls Moore's 2016 election "a transcendent moment for Travis County, but also an important occurrence for the entire nation." ...

Also Noted Moore's list of endorsements is impressive, but longtime courthouse observers caution, "Remember Andy Brown." The former party chair ran for Travis County judge in 2014, his campaign kickoff featured dozens of Democratic headliners – and he also won the lion's share of Dem club endorsements. Who won the primary (and general) election? Now-two-term incumbent Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.

D.A. challengers José Garza and Erin Martinson don't feature headline endorsement lists of public officials on their websites, but they've garnered other important nods. Early on, as the campaigns were beginning, Garza got a boost from the national Real Justice PAC (a Shaun King initiative), and more recently added the Austin Democratic Socialists, Liberal Austin Democrats, UT Univer­sity Dems, and the Austin EMS Association. Martinson boasted the support of the Circle C Area Democrats, Ed Scruggs of Texas Gun Sense (and the Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign), former Chron­icle (and Texas Monthly) reporter Audrey Duff, and a minor-key musical motif: Shawn Colvin, Kelly Willis, and Willis' spouse Bruce Robison.*[See correction below] ...

Elfant in the Room Notoriously mild-mannered Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant took uncharacteristic umbrage at a remark by county attorney candidate (and Mayor Pro Tem) Delia Garza, who in a recent interview suggested that the C.A.'s Office could be more aggressive in fighting state GOP voter suppression. Referring obliquely to last year's dispute with the secretary of state over alleged noncitizen voters (Sec. David Whitley eventually resigned over the issue), Garza told the Chronicle that the county attor­ney might have been more defiant over voter rolls, "rather than just turning them over on demand" ("Former County Judge Rails Against Delia Garza," Jan. 10).

Garza didn't mention Elfant, but Elfant objected to Garza's indirect implication that Travis County had too readily deferred to the state's inaccurate process. Elfant and his team had devoted large resources to reviewing Whitley's list, file by file, concluding that it was riddled with errors and unreliable, and, he told the Chronicle, "When the SoS asked me to send 'show me your papers' letters to about 4,600 individuals who they believed were not citizens, I refused. I made the decision to file a brief in the federal lawsuit opposing the SoS' actions and appreciate the county attorney's role in laying the legal foundation to support my position. We won that case and I am proud of my role in opposing what was an unconstitutional attempt by the SoS and Texas A.G. to suppress voters." (For the record, as an election official, Elfant doesn't endorse candidates or get involved in campaigns.)


Rep. John Carter

Garza responded that she hadn't meant to criticize Elfant and instead was trying to make a broader point about pushing back against state attempts at voter suppression, or similar efforts. "I was talking about trying to empower our county officials, and I was using that [Whitley episode] as an example. I could have framed it better and said we just need to make sure we aren't handing over sensitive information." If elected, she says, she intends to provide support to all county officials, and hopes they will learn to "expect more" from the county attorney's office...

Then There Were Five The TX-31 congres­sional race once boasted at least 11 declared Democratic candidates for the Williamson/Bell County seat that includes a growing sliver of Austin. (Three Republicans have filed to challenge incumbent Rep. John Carter.) The list has since devolved to five, according to the announcement of a candidate forum this coming Saturday, sponsored by eight William­son County Democratic clubs. Still standing: musician and retirement consultant Eric Hanke, computer engineer Donna Imam, primary care doctor (and 2018 candidate) Chris­tine Eady Mann, management consultant Dan Janjigian, and Round Rock City Council Member Tammy Young. The forum will be held at the Round Rock Library, 216 Main St., Sat., Jan. 25, 1-5pm.


Follow our continuing coverage of the campaign trail at austinchronicle.com/elections.


*Correction: The "Also Noted" item, above, originally reported in error that the Austin Firefighters Association had endorsed Erin Martinson for District Attorney. The AFA has not made an endorsement in that race, and we apologize for the error. – M.K.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

March 2020 Primary, TX-25 Congressional race, Julie Oliver, Heidi Sloan, Greg Casar, Ora Houston, Travis County District Attorney, Margaret Moore, Lloyd Doggett, Kirk Watson, Steve Adler, Sarah Eckhardt, David Escamilla, Nelson Linder, Andy Brown, José Garza, Erin Martinson, Real Justice PAC, Austin Democratic Socialists, Liberal Austin Democrats

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