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Doggett handily beats Hinojosa in District 25

Wednesday, March 10, 2004 by

Congressman wins more than 88% in Travis County; 50% in Hidalgo County

US Rep. Lloyd Doggett won a sweeping victory throughout the new far-flung Congressional District 25 last night, handily beating opponent Leticia Hinojosa of McAllen with more than 64 percent of the vote.

Doggett, who has represented Austin’s 10th Congressional District since 1994, was the overwhelming favorite in his home county, with more than 88 percent of the vote. That was expected. The incumbent Democrat’s greatest concern was how he would perform in the Valley. The new Congressional District 25, intended to be a Hispanic district by the Republicans who redrew it, stretches from Travis County to Hidalgo County.

Doggett, however, held the lead in Hidalgo County, although just barely, throughout the evening. To win, Hinojosa needed at least 70 percent of her neighbors to vote for her in her home county, so it was obvious early in the evening that Doggett could not be beat. The two candidates split the early vote in Hidalgo County, and Doggett finished the night 65 votes ahead of Hinojosa there, according to unofficial totals from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The veteran congressman also bested Hinojosa in Caldwell, Duval, Gonzales, Karnes and Live Oak Counties. Hinojosa took only Starr and Jim Hogg Counties. The strong surge in Travis County, however, is what gave Doggett the convincing victory. Nearly 18,300 Democrats in Travis voted for him, compared to about 2,400 for Hinojosa.

During the 2000 primary, approximately 36,000 votes were cast for an unopposed Doggett, with Al Gore at the top of Democratic ticket. The 18,300 votes for Doggett is impressive, considering that Travis County is now split into three Congressional districts.

Travis County Clerk Dana deBeauvoir was beaming last night as final results came out at 10:22 p.m., far earlier than the primary four years ago. She said there were some issues throughout the day, but they were “routine problems,” handled in the prescribed manner. She said Democratic turnout stood at 17.4 percent, including the early vote, adding there was a chance that the number would meet or exceed voter turnout in 2000. “We’re so excited! We went into the day thinking it might be a really big turnout day,” DeBeauvoir said. “Our previous presidential primary did not come close.” She also praised election workers and volunteers for handling a last-minute surge as several polling places around the county faced long lines at 7pm. “They did a really good job…I’m really proud of the way everybody pulled together.”

With Tuesday’s early vote exceeding the early vote in the 2000 primary by 16,000 votes, Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting was crowing. His press statement said, “Democrats ought to be proud today. Despite DeLay’s best efforts, we had a powerful showing and held a successful primary election.”

Doggett determined at the beginning of his race that he would run against Republican US Sen. Tom DeLay rather than Hinojosa. DeLay, the powerful Majority Leader of the House, is considered the mastermind behind Republican redistricting in Texas. Doggett’s strategy was obviously part of a winning combination for him. After Hinojosa conceded, Doggett said, “One of our concerns at the beginning was that we not yield to Tom DeLay’s attempts to pit us race against race and region against region. The outpouring we’ve had here (in the Valley) tonight suggests that Tom DeLay probably should’ve redistricted me to the Canadian border.”

Hinojosa, who resigned her position as a district court judge to run, was gracious in conceding. “I am very proud of our effort,” she said, thanking those who had helped her. “I will continue, as I always have, to be an advocate for our community—just in a different capacity.” Hinojosa said she looks forward to meeting with Doggett to discuss various issues “as we prepare for the November election.” Both candidates promised before the election to support the Democratic nominee.

Doggett swept endorsements that conventional wisdom might have reserved for his Hispanic opponent, including a Who’s Who of public officials in the Valley and Austin. The only local official in Austin supporting Hinojosa was Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who may face opposition in his next primary contest as a result of his decision.

Doggett will face Republican nominee Rebecca Armendariz Klein in November. Klein easily defeated Regner Capener. Klein, former chair of the Public Utility Commission, beat Capener with about 67 percent of the Republican vote. Republicans cast a total of 5,463 votes in that race, and Klein picked up 3,676 of them.

On the Republican side, Austinite Michael McCaul will face Houston resident Ben Streusand in a runoff next month in the now predominantly Republican Congressional District 10. With 185 of 234 precincts reporting, McCaul had 7,020 votes to Streusand’s 7,606. John Devine came in third in a field of eight candidates. Ironically, if McCaul wins, it could give Travis County two representatives in Congress.

Davis returned to seat without runoff

Republican sheriff candidates in runoff; Greg Hamilton wins Democratic nod

Travis County Commissioner Ron Davis will hang on to his Precinct 1 seat after a genteel contest that was widely predicted to end in a runoff with his closest challenger Celia Israel.

Davis, whose campaign raised and spent far less money than Israel’s, finished the evening with nearly 52 percent of the vote. That slim margin was enough to avoid a runoff. Israel had about 27 percent. Kathy Bedford Smith took 12 percent and Arthur Sampson finished with just under 9 percent.

“I had some very formidable opponents,” said Davis. “I think it came down to identifying the problems and how you solve them… It’s been a tough, tough hard-fought race. I commend my opponents because they’ve worked just as hard as I have.”

Campaign consultant David Butts attributed Davis’ victory to his popularity in the African-American community and among environmentalists, who are mostly white. Butts said Israel pulled some votes from women’s and gay groups and with Hispanics. Israel had pointed out the changing demographics of the district—with more Hispanics and fewer African-Americans than in the past—as reasons why she would win the contest.

Travis County Republicans will hold a run-off election on April 13 to select their candidate for Sheriff. APD Commander Duane McNeill received 29 percent of the vote, while Precinct 3 Constable Drew McAngus received 37 percent. “I think we had excellent candidates on the Republican ticket,” said McAngus. “I’m looking forward to the next 30 days to see what happens.” McNeill said he had anticipated a runoff considering the crowded field of experienced law-enforcement officials. “We’re not disappointed with the numbers,” he said. “We worked extremely hard and we’ll devise a game plan based on the precinct returns and how the voters voted, and we’ll make sure we deliver our message.”

The winner will face former TABC official Greg Hamilton, who emerged from the field of four candidates to capture the Democratic Party’s nomination with 53 percent of the vote. “I have done a lot of walking, I have knocked on a lot of doors, and I’ve done what my campaign manager told me to do,” said Hamilton. Hamilton, who has the endorsement of retiring Sheriff Margo Frasier, beat a former sheriff, Raymond Frank, plus Kyle Kincaid and Todd Radford, for the Democratic nomination.

Triana, Yelenosky, Hohengarten win races easily

County Court-at-Law Judge Gisela Triana jumped out to an early lead in her race—and kept it throughout the night—to move up to the 200th District Court.

When early votes were tallied, Triana had nearly 59 percent of the vote, or 11,849 votes. Her nearest rival, attorney Jan Soifer, had less than half that amount—5,087 votes or 25.22 percent. Associate Judge John Hathaway trailed with 3,234 votes or about 16 percent. When all the votes were counted, Triana had 32,508 to Soifer’s 16,734 in a race that was marred by mudslinging over which candidate was a better Democrat.

Triana said she expected to be in a runoff, what with three well-qualified and well-funded campaigns. But in the end, Triana had little to fear. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Triana said she was humbled by the faith Travis County voters placed in her and promised to make the voters proud of her as a district judge.

As for the mudslinging, Triana said she assumed that Soifer took up the strategy because she was behind. “I’m sorry we couldn’t have kept it on qualifications and experience,” Triana said. The Soifer campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Triana, 37, has 10 years experience on the bench. Since no Republican filed for judge of the 200th District Court, she will face no opponent this fall.

In a contested battle that saw little controversy, Stephen Yelenosky beat Richard Anton with nearly 61 percent of the vote in the 345th District Court race. Yelenosky, a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and cum laude graduate of Harvard School of Law, is the legal director for Advocacy Inc. Prior to that, Yelenosky spent 10 years as an attorney at Legal Aid of Texas.

Yelenosky may have an uphill battle in November, however, when he will face 345th District Court Judge Patrick Keel, the brother of Rep. Terry Keel. Keel was a Perry appointee to the bench.

First-time candidate Nancy Hohengarten, who had strong backing from bar organizations as well as Democratic clubs throughout Austin, won easily over two Hispanic opponents to become the Democratic candidate for County Court-at-Law No. 5. Hohengarten, 42, won more than 65 percent of the vote. Associate Judge Leonard Saenz got just less than 20 percent of the vote and Efrain de La Fuente had about 15 percent.

Hohengarten is a graduate of the University of Texas and the University of Texas Law School. A former Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney, Hohengarten has been a criminal defense attorney for about three years. She said she was “shocked, but pleasantly,” by her own margin of victory. She said she is looking forward to the fall campaign against Republican Angelita Mendoza Waterhouse.

Petition certified . . . City Clerk Shirley Brown notified the Mayor and Council yesterday that she had verified signatures of more than the required number of voters to put the matter of collective bargaining for firefighters on the May 15 ballot. The item is already on this week’s Council agenda . . . Domain amendment . . . Tomorrow the City Council will consider a first amendment to the tax abatement agreement the city signed with Endeavor Real Estate last year. Assistant City Attorney David Lloyd said he could not disclose the changes but said Endeavor already had agreed to the revisions. The Council will go into executive session to hear about the amendment, which is listed on the agenda as being “subject to future appropriations provision and other clarifying amendments.” Brian Rodgers has sued both the city and Endeavor over the deal and that lawsuit also is listed on the agenda for discussion during the executive session . . . Meetings . . . The Historic Preservation Task force is scheduled to meet at 6pm in Room 240 of One Texas Center, in a race to meet its March deadline for its report to Council. The agenda, as always, is a laundry list of topics the task force will consider and reconsider. At last week’s meeting, the group still had work to do on the composition of the Historic Landmark Commission’ s membership. . . The Solid Waste Advisory Commission will meet at 6:30pm at the Waller Creek Center . . . The Telecommunications Commission will meet at 7:30pm in Room 304 of City Hall . . . Mueller Airport town hall . . . Council Member Danny Thomas will hold a town hall meeting next Tuesday, March 16, from 7-9pm at the Promiseland Home Court Fellowship Hall, 1504 E. 51st St. Thomas is encouraging citizens to come with questions and comments concerning the sale or lease of the 700-acre property where the old airport once stood. Representatives of www.keeptheland.org have been lobbying Thomas and other Council members to lease the land rather than selling it outright to one or more developers.

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