Democrat Judicial Candidates Celebrate Primary Wins

Nominees will breeze to election in deep-blue Travis County

Judicial candidate Laurie Eiserloh takes photos with supporters at Santa Rita Cantina during election night Tuesday, March 1
Judicial candidate Laurie Eiserloh takes photos with supporters at Santa Rita Cantina during election night Tuesday, March 1 (Photo by Brant Bingamon)

It was a joyous vibe at Santa Rita Cantina on Tuesday night. When early voting results were released at 7:30pm, the three judicial candidates holding their watch parties at the Mexican food eatery in Rosedale knew they had won their primaries, which, this being Austin, meant they'd won their elections, too.

Democrat Judicial Candidates Celebrate Primary Wins

Laurie Eiserloh, with her Ann Richards hair and a white jacket that drew even more attention to it, moved through the crowd like a rock star. Everyone she passed – literally – wanted a moment with her. Winning the primary for the newly created 455th District Court with 86% of the vote may have been part of the attraction. (Eiserloh will face the GOP appointee to this civil court, Cleve Doty, in November, but that's just a formality in deep-blue Travis County; the rest of the judges will be unopposed.) She spoke with the Chronicle about the importance of Travis County's district courts: "I was the director of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas back in the early 1990s and we relied on the civil district courts, just as Austinites do now, to protect us from the Texas Legislature."

Brandy Mueller is another judge who won her primary going away, with 82% of the vote for the 403rd District Court race to succeed Brenda Kennedy on this criminal court bench, and will now be able to implement something like the Project Engage diversion program for young offenders that she created 12 years ago in County Court at Law 6. Daniela DeSeta Lyttle won the the 261st Dis­trict Court race to succeed Lora Livingston, and incumbent Chantal Eldridge will retain her seat on the 331st District Court.

Rounding out the district court races, Catherine Mauzy blew out challenger Made­leine Connor – who is already a judge in a different civil district court – with 74% of the vote. Mauzy was one of those celebrating at Santa Rita on Tuesday and, while not interested in getting into a deep discussion of her opponent – who appears to have run against Mauzy as part of a personal vendetta – she did allow one observation. "I will say this: If you're gonna run for office, you should show up and tell people why they should vote for you. And she didn't. She wouldn't answer why she wanted to run."

It was a good night for any judge who happened to receive the Chronicle's endorsement, with the Editorial Board going 11 for 11. Each of the winners in the County Court at Law races got over 60% of the vote: Dimple Malhotra in CCL 4, Mary Ann Espir­itu in CCL 5, and Denise Hernández in CCL 6. In the one contested higher-court race, Rosa Lopez Theofanis finished at 49% and was forced into a runoff with Beth Payán for a chance to (almost certainly) flip the last GOP-held seat on the 3rd Court of Appeals.

In the Justice of the Peace races, incumbents Yvonne Williams and Nick Chu each won handily. (The other three local JPs were unopposed.) Chu was one of the celebrants on Tuesday, along with his wife, Kathryn, and their infant son, born the day that Chu announced his reelection run. "My big thing next term will be giving free lawyers for folks who can't afford them, for eviction cases," Chu said. "Right now, that's only available for a handful of courts here in Travis County. I want to expand that all through the region. Now I've got another four years to do that."

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