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Daugherty faces Huber, Benedict in Pct. 3 Commissioner’s race

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 by Mark Richardson

The sprawling Precinct 3 takes up almost half of the land in Travis County, including almost all of the land west of the MoPac Expressway.  It contains some of the most expensive, beautiful and environmentally sensitive land in Texas.


Since 2002, it has been the domain Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, a conservative Republican best known for his opposition to mass transit and support of road projects. Although most commissioners’ court votes are unanimous, Daugherty does not mind casting the lone dissenting vote as he sits with the four Democrats on Commissioners Court.


On Nov. 4, Daugherty will face the only opposition since he first won the office to complete an unexpired term in 2002. However, while Democrat Karen Huber scores well with those who attend various candidate forums, she is losing the fundraising war to Daugherty, who at last count (about a week ago) had $138,000 on hand to Huber’s $44,000.


Libertarian Wes Benedict is also on the ballot for Precinct 3. He has made opposition to rail as well as toll roads a major plank in his campaign and he also supports passage of the Stop Domain Subsidies amendment to the city charter.


Huber describes herself as a businesswoman, conservationist and community leader who is running on expanding mass transit to all areas of the region, gaining county control over land development, and protecting water and other natural resources.


She criticizes Daugherty’s hand-off approach to government as more of a “don’t do anything” policy.


“I believe in doing something,” Huber told Lake Travis Democrats recently. “We need to do more as a county to regulate development and deal with the urbanization of the Hill County. Currently, counties do not have the teeth to do as much as we need to control growth. Counties need to get aggressive in both assuming power over land development and working with the state to strengthen our hand.”


She said Daugherty spent much of the last Legislative session helping to kill a bill by Hays County Rep. Patrick Rose that would have strengthened counties’ position in land development regulation.


Daugherty remains a staunch opponent of spending for mass transit. He led the fight in 2000 to defeat Capital Metro’s proposed Light Rail system, and continually decries the lack of ridership on Capital Metro’s buses as a reason to oppose mass transit out into his district.


“Getting mass transit to western Travis County is a pipe dream, because people don’t even ride mass transit in the inner city,” he said in a recent candidate forum. 


Daugherty beat Democrat Margaret Moore by an 11 percent margin in 2002 to fill out an unexpired term, and ran unopposed in 2004. He has amassed a total of more than $300,000 in contributions thus far, while Huber has slightly more than $100,000, including a $10,000 loan from her husband.


Benedict has raised and spent about $1,600.


Both Daugherty and Huber plan say they plan to begin TV ads to coincide with the start of early voting next week.


Although Benedict stands little chance of winning the race, his presence could be the deciding factor this year with many new Democratic voters registering to vote. If Democrats show up in large numbers in the two big city precincts in the eastern edge of the district—to vote for Senator Barack Obama—their votes could change the equation regardless of what the candidates do.

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