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Still a horse race for Brown, Eckhardt in quest for County Judge spot

Friday, January 17, 2014 by Mark Richardson

The two Democrats battling to replace long-time Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe have raised a combined $464,000 in campaign cash through Dec. 31. Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt are waging the first real battle for the top job in Travis County in 16 years.

 

Brown, an attorney, long-time political activist and former chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, holds about a $100,000 fundraising lead over Eckhardt, a former prosecutor for the Travis County Attorney’s Office and a former Travis County Commissioner.

 

Brown’s Campaign Finance Report, for the period of July 1 through Dec. 31, listed about $293,000 in contributions, $232,000 in expenses and $152,000 cash on hand. Brown listed several major donors, including the Travis County Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Association with $15,000, BuildASign CEO Dan Graham with $10,500, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees People PAC with $5,000, engineer Paul Bury with $5,000, the Education Austin PAC with $1,000 and Jeffrey and Adriana Peek with an in-kind donation of office space valued at $30,000.

 

Brown had 665 donors this period for a total of 706 donations, and 1287 donors throughout the campaign. Of the donations this period, 269 were less than $50, for a total of 607 donors who’ve donated less than $50 during the campaign.

 

“I’m so honored to have the support of nearly every endorsing organization and so many progressive leaders and heroes in this community,” Brown said. “But even better – that over 1,200 citizens believe in our vision for change at county government, like ethics reform, water conservation, better transportation, criminal justice reform, and improving education.”

 

Brown campaign manager Jim Wick said the campaign had done some recent polling and was happy with the results.

 

“Our internal polling shows us ahead and all the movement over the last three months has been in our direction,” he said.

The Eckhardt campaign reported it raised $171,000 in the last six months of 2013, had $174,000 in expenses and has $101,000 in cash on hand. About 74 percent of her contributions were $100 or less, which she said showed grassroots support for her campaign. More than 40 percent of her fundraising total came after the debate between Eckhardt and Brown sponsored by KUT and the Austin Monitor on Dec. 9.

 

The campaign reported donations from various prominent individuals such as Bill Bunch, SOS Executive Director; Heather Busby, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director; Nina Butts; George Cofer, Hill Country Conservancy Executive Director; Shudde Fath, longtime Austin activist; Alan Graham, President and Founder of Mobile Loaves and Fishes; Karen Huber, former Precinct 3 Travis County Commissioner; Greg Kozmetsky, RGK Foundation Chairman; Southwest Laborers District Council SWLDC PAC; Kathy Miller, Texas Freedom Network Executive Director; State Representative Senfronia Thompson; and Elizabeth Yevich, former Travis County Democratic Party Executive Director.

 

“I am humbled by the show of grassroots support for our campaign,” said Eckhardt. “The people of Travis County are hungry for leadership that will stand up for environmental protection and economic fairness. They see our campaign as a historic opportunity to stand up to politically connected corporations that don’t want to pay their fair share like the rest of us.  Like Wendy Davis, I am ready to break barriers for Texas women, stand up for the middle class and blaze a trail for young women like my daughter as the first woman to ever be elected Travis County Judge.” (This quote and some numbers in this story have been updated from an earlier version.)

 

Though Eckhardt has raised less money than her opponent, her campaign manager, Nick Hudson, said the campaign has what it needs to compete.

 

“We know if we have the resources we need to get our message out, we will win this race,” he said. “It’s obvious we’re going to be outspent, but Andy ended up about where we were guessing he would. It’s not a major concern. He has to spend more money because he doesn’t have a record and the public isn’t really familiar with who he is.”

 

Hudson said a poll commissioned by the campaign in November showed it to be a close race.

 

It showed us ahead by 2 points within the 4 percent margin of error, but we felt good about it because she was ahead in most demographic groups,” Hudson said. “It was a benchmark poll. We tested candidate bios and we tested some messaging, all in a simulated campaign environment.”

 

The winner of the March 4 Democratic primary will face Republican Mike McNamara, who is running unopposed, in the November general election.

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