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Travis County Democrats issue key endorsements

Friday, January 18, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

At Travis County’s Democratic Forum Wednesday night, several local Democratic groups issued endorsements in races for Travis County Pct 3 Commissioner, Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and District Attorney.


If the Dukes v. Thompson challenge was the main item on the marquee, (See In Fact Daily, Jan. 17, 2008)  there were three more matches that are worth mentioning: Albert Gonzales or Karen Huber against incumbent Gerald Daugherty in Precinct 3; Nelda Wells Spears against Glen Maxey in the Tax Assessor-Collector; and a slew of candidates for District Attorney.


The fight to replace Ronnie Earle, Travis County’s outgoing District Attorney, is a big one. You have four internal candidates Rosemary Lehmberg, Gary Cobb and Rick Reed and Mindy Montford.


Montford, the daughter of a powerful state senator-turned-lobbyist and ex-wife of Council Member Brewster McCracken, spoke of her long-time background as a  long-time Austinite who was ready to offer new energy to the DA’s office.  She was endorsed by the local AFL-CIO.


Lehmberg was the cool-headed pro, the one who was Earle’s second-in-command for 10 years. She takes Earle’s endorsement into the race.


Cobb was the successful prosecutor who skipped his credentials to talk about his devotion to the Democratic Party. Reed spoke about his long-time background as a prosecutor in offices under both Henry Wade in Dallas and under Earle in Austin. Reed emphasized is his commitment to justice over quotas.


In this partisan crowd, Cobb picked up his fair share of endorsements. The Austin Tejano Democrats and Southwest Democrats favored Cobb. Texas Environmental Democrats and Capital Area Asian-American Democrats endorsed Lehmberg.


In the Tax Assessor-Collector’s race, it was a contrast:  the energetic, yet clearly partisan-leaning Glen Maxey or the calm hand of long-time employee Nelda Wells Spears.  Maxey touted new vistas of reaching out to encourage the registration of those who need to claim tax exemptions while Spears spoke of her 15 years of experience. Spears also had the strong support of her department’s employees.


One group questioned whether Maxey might be too partisan for the cause. For instance, Spears wore no stickers or badges to the Democratic forum as the county’s voter registrar while Maxey has been active in raising the profile for Democrats did give him pause.


“I am Mr. Democrat,” Maxey admitted. “I have been partisan, but I will tell you 25 years ago, I taught elementary school in one of the most conservative communities in East Texas, in Navasota. While I was a teacher, I never brought my politics in the classroom.”


Inside the office, the job would be non-partisan, Maxey said.


Democrats have distinct choices for Commissioner in Precinct 3. No one has agreed that Commissioner Gerald Daugherty has a serious opponent, but Karen Huber would be the West Travis County opponent he might fear most.


When it came to endorsements, the South Austin Democrats and Capital Area Asian-American Democrats backed Maxey. The Southwest Austin Democrats backed Spears, as did the West Austin Democrats, who endorsed her at an earlier meeting.  



Huber, the archetype Western Travis County resident, participated in the Southwest Dialogue hosted by Daugherty, promises to support more environmentally sensitive than Daugherty. She specifically pointed to infrastructure and water as key issues and mentioned her background as a member of Scenic Texas.


At one point in the hearing, Huber accused Daugherty of failing to listen to constituents. That rang hollow with some participants. Daugherty is well-known for hosting numerous public forums on issues, including the Southwest Dialogue. His conclusions may conflict with participants, but he is rarely a non-participant.


Albert Gonzales, Daugherty’s second opponent, stressed his commitment to the Democratic Party. He also stressed his commitment to issues of the precinct, such as a voluntary moratorium on tolling on roads in Southwest Travis County.


When it came time for endorsements, the Austin Tejano Democrats backed Gonzales,  The Texas Environmental Democrats and Asian-American Democrats backed Huber.


In other endorsements, Scott Ozmun and Jim Coronado swept the ballots in legal races. Don Grant claimed all endorsements offered against incumbent Congressman Michael McCaul.

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