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Commissioner Huber looks ahead to re-election challenge in 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 by Michael Kanin

A tough re-election bid seems likely to dominate 2012 for Travis County Pct. 3 representative Karen Huber. After a redistricting battle that, despite her efforts, preserved her district as fertile Republican ground, the Democrat is looking at a likely rematch against the man she defeated in 2008, then-six-year incumbent Gerald Daugherty.


Despite the political wisdom that’s already written that story, Huber isn’t so sure that a rematch is inevitable. “I don’t know that Gerald will be my opponent,” she says, noting that Daugherty’s primary rival Jim Strickland “has a pretty good base in West Lake.”


“I hear he can really turn out people at the polls,” she says. As the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to undo the work of a San Antonio federal court, it seems possible that the date for this year’s primary may slip from April to June. That could have an impact on who shows up at the polls.


Whomever her opponent, Huber seems set to make water a central issue in her re-election effort. “There is so much to be done on water,” she says. “I think water has surpassed transportation issues at this point in critical nature.”


“There’s no doubt we have serious mobility issues, and we have to continue to work on those,” she adds. “But every time I talk to a group about water—particularly the ones in the city—I say ‘have you seen Lake Travis?’…It’s worth a Sunday afternoon drive.”


The other side isn’t so convinced. Huber’s Republican challenger, whoever it may be, is likely to use transportation – specifically the construction of more roads, an effort they argue will help alleviate traffic congestion in the growing county — as the main argument. There, Huber will have to face the specter of State Highway 45 SW, a project that some of her constituents say she promised to push through, but that she ultimately voted against.


Huber told In Fact Daily that her opposition to the project isn’t set in stone. “What I’ve been asking for all along is ‘prove it to me’ – that it will help or that it doesn’t help,” she says.


Still, Huber notes that she isn’t “going worry about SH45 in the election year.”


“It is such a minor issue from my perspective when you look at all of the other issues that are out there,” she continues. “There will be those—my opponent, whoever it is–will try to make 45 the big issue. If we get that modeling back and it shows it needs to be built—if it shows that it helps Brodie enough to put $20 million, $25 million of taxpayer money in there, okay.”


Huber points out that, even if studies prove the need for the road, there would still be other costs to consider. “The other side of that is, if the majority of the traffic is going to come from Hays County, who’s going to pay for the maintenance?” she says. “It’s terribly environmentally sensitive and you don’t know those kind of costs until you get into them.”


In 2011, Huber played a key role in working on a set of groundwater use restrictions. She also pushed through a moratorium on development that relies on groundwater meant as a stopgap until the permanent rules are put in place. Those are expected to make their way to the court before the temporary restrictions expire on Jan. 31.


Huber was a reluctant candidate in 2008, raising her hand only after a group looking for a Democratic candidate failed to find anyone else. This, she says, will not be the case in 2012. “I’m excited about running again,” she says. “I didn’t think I liked campaigning, but I actually do… I get to get back out with the people again.”

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