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Democrat Huber defeats Daugherty in Precinct 3 race

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Challenger Karen Huber, a Democrat, won her fight to unseat Pct. 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty last night and has pledged to focus on land controls and transportation.

Huber’s election removes the one Republican on Commissioners Court. The first-time candidate won strong support in early voting returns – and though that lead narrowed somewhat during the evening – she maintained her lead.

At the end of the evening Huber was still ahead of Daugherty, 49-46. Libertarian Wes Benedict had about 5 percent of the vote.

The Huber campaign, led by consultant David Butts and campaign manager Mary Ann Neely, worked hard to turn out the more Democratic city precincts as opposed to the outlying areas where Republicans are generally more popular. In the county’s most populous precinct, Barton Hills School, 74 percent of the voters chose Huber to represent them on the court. In the precinct next door, which votes at the Bluebonnet Elementary School, Huber won more than 80 percent of the votes.

 As part of the Travis County Democratic Party’s overall effort to get partisans out to vote early, volunteers knocked on doors and phoned voters in those city precincts. As a result, more than three-fourths of voters who participated in the election did so during the early voting period, according to figures complied by consultant Mark Littlefield. Among those who voted early, Huber won nearly 51 percent of the vote compared to Daugherty’s 44 percent. He won a majority of votes from those who waited until Election Day to vote, but that did not make up for the margin Huber gathered during early voting.

Reached at the Democratic watch party at the Driskill Hotel, Huber was delighted with the turnout and with her lead in the election. Huber started her fund-raising early last November as a first-time candidate.

“I thought the race would be meaner than it has been, and I want to compliment my opponent on that,” Huber said.

Daugherty did not return phone calls for comment.

Huber, who was vocal during the Southwest Dialogue coordinated by Daugherty, said she had worked with other commissioners on various issues.  Huber said she would take a very different policy direction from Daugherty. Asked whether land use controls would be at the top of her agenda, Huber said yes.

“I think it would be,” Huber agreed. “Transportation, taxes and water all dovetail back into that land use authority, and if we don’t start with that foundation, we are working in a patchwork capacity.”

Democratic consultant David Butts said this race had a big issue: growth. How should the county grow in environmentally sensitive areas?

“This is what I believe: Gerald is basically laissez faire. If it’s going to happen, we might as well let it happen. We’ll do the best we can, but growth is good for everyone,” Butts said. “Versus Karen, who would say, ‘Yes, we’re going to grow, but we don’t have to grow everywhere, and we should have a say about the kind of growth we have. Growth doesn’t pay for itself. The taxpayer ends up paying for it.”

The big challenge for Huber and those who agree with her will be convincing the Legislature to give Travis County additional land use authority.

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