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National Republican wave hits Travis County too

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The race for the Texas State House District 48 seat was improbably close Tuesday night. With all precincts reporting, incumbent Democrat Donna Howard led her Republican challenger Dan Neil by a mere 15 votes.


Officials with both campaigns remained unsure about how to proceed. As the loser, Neil can request a recount. An official with his campaign, Zach Vaughn, told In Fact Daily that he was not yet positive what the next step for Neil would be. There was no official reaction from the Howard camp as of Tuesday night.


If the results hold, Libertarian candidate Ben Easton seems to have played the role of spoiler. His run siphoned just over 1500 votes—presumably mostly from the Republican.


Up to this point, the race had been a slow one. In his challenge, Neil failed to raise much cash and only managed to raise eyebrows when he was kicked off his radio sports show thanks to the Federal Communications Commission rule about equal airtime for candidates.


The Texas 48 sits mostly over western Travis County. As late as Tuesday morning, Howard had been expected to win handily.


District 47 Rep. Valinda Bolton was stunned by a Republican storm that swept out three Central Texas Democratic House members losing to Paul Workman by 2100 votes out of more than 60,000.


Bolton and Rep. Diana Maldonado (R-Round Rock) were considered two of the most vulnerable House seats in Central Texas. Howard and Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) were considered in play, but safer. (See below)


Only Howard survived the onslaught of Republican voters at the polls on Tuesday, a day that saw Democrat Reps. Jim Dunnam, Chris Turner, Jim McReynolds, Mark Homer, Abel Herrero, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, Joe Heflin and Robert Miklos go down to defeat.


At a watch party Election Night, Republican Workman said he was fighting for the conservative values that were reflected in his district.


“I’m doing it in large measure because of my grandchildren, who are faced with huge federal debt, and I want to make sure Texas doesn’t go down the same path that California’s going down or the federal government’s going down,” Workman said.


Earlier in the evening Bolton joked the election was like childbirth, something that required a great deal of waiting in order to get the required result. Late in the evening, however, it was Bolton’s campaign manager Elizabeth Hartman who took the calls and confirmed the concession, saying it was heartbreaking to think her boss had worked so hard to deliver results like road project improvements only to go down to defeat at the final hour.


Senator Kirk Watson handily defeated his opponents, Republican Mary Lou Serafine and Libertarian Kent Phillips, with 61 percent of the vote.


At the county level, all three Democratic Travis incumbents on the ballot for Commissioners’ Court seats were returned. Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez, who had heart surgery this spring, beat Libertarian challenger David Dreesen for her fourth term on the court. She collected 83 percent of the vote.


Precinct 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt defeated Republican developer David Buttross and Libertarian Matthew Finkel to win her second term. Eckhardt received 59 percent of the vote to Buttross’ 36. Finkel collected the remaining five.


Judge Sam Biscoe, who has served on the court since 1991, will now begin his third term in that role. He beat out Republican Mike McNamara and Libertarian Mark Tippetts. Biscoe received 56 percent to McNamara’s 39. Tippets saw five percent of that vote.  


Veteran Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett won another term in office last night thanks to a strong endorsement ( 66 percent) from voters in southern Travis County. His other counties include Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell, all of which saw a Republican resurgence, but not enough to send emergency room physician Donna Campbell to Washington.


Constituents of Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, whose district stretches from the northwest part of Travis County to San Antonio, also won re-election with help from Austin. Congressman Michael McCaul, on the other hand, won his race, but lost in Travis County 44-53 percent to Democratic challenger Ted Ankrum.

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