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South Austin Democrats issue endorsements for upcoming races

Thursday, February 9, 2012 by Michael Kanin

The South Austin Democrats have issued their endorsements in a host of upcoming Travis County electoral races. They include Sally Hernandez – who is running against incumbent Democrat Richard McCain – for Pct. 3 Constable, incumbent Maria Canchola for Pct. 4 Constable, incumbent Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber for her Pct. 3 slot, incumbent District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to retain her seat, current Pct. 5 Constable Bruce Elfant to replace retired Tax Assessor-Collector Nelda Wells Spears, and incumbent county sheriff Greg Hamilton to retain his seat.


The club also endorsed attorney David Wahlberg for the 167th district criminal court judgeship. That announcement came after a run-off tally of club member’s ballots.


Wahlberg, former prosecutor and military defense attorney Efrain De La Fuente, and former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney Bryan Case are all vying for the Democratic nomination for the 167th. Each of the candidates addressed the South Austin Democrats before the endorsement vote.


Wahlberg focused on the need for an independent presence on the bench. “I think it’s highly important that our judges be independent and that we have a level playing field,” he said. “You don’t have to look very far up the road in Williamson County to see what happens when we have a district attorney and a judge who are too closely allied.”


He implied that his opponents’ familiarity with the district attorney’s office could be a liability. “I’m going to tell you that when you’ve spent 10, 15, 20, 25 years in the district attorney’s office, you cannot help but have developed friendships and relationships not just with prosecutors, but with the police,” Wahlberg continued. “That means it’s going to be difficult to set that aside when it comes to making judgments.”


De La Fuente talked about his experience on both sides of the court. “I’m balanced for this job, folks. I’ve been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney and we need a person out there who has that experience,” he said.


He added that he’s been endorsed by “50 precinct chairs.”


Case argued that he is “the only candidate who is both board-certified in criminal law…and who has had a meaningful career as both a prosecutor in the county and as a criminal defense attorney.”


During her remarks to the club, Huber laid the major themes of her campaign. “Our biggest issues continue to be water, transportation, and, this past year…wildfire emergency services,” she said. “I have really stepped (forward) in each of those—not only on specific issues, but in preparing the county and the different organizations like CAMPO that I serve on…Not only dealing with immediate issues, but in working, and planning, and preparing.”


Huber’s primary opponent will be Albert Gonzalez, who also opposed her in 2008. He declined to give an opening statement to the South Austin Democrats, instead asking to proceed with questions. When prompted he told the gathering that he endorse would the Democratic slate, no matter the outcome of his personal race.


After his loss in the 2008 Democratic primary, Gonzalez endorsed Huber’s libertarian opponent Wes Benedict.


Thanks to a series of legal challenges, there is still no date for the 2012 Democratic primary.

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