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Still on fence, Daugherty draws primary challenger anyway

Friday, November 6, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

The number of declared candidates in the hunt for a Travis County Commissioner Precinct 3 chair doubled this week from one to two, but there’s still one important name absent from the field: incumbent Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.

Daugherty, the lone Republican on the Commissioners Court, told the Austin Monitor on Thursday afternoon that he would break the suspense and announce his intentions by Monday or Tuesday of next week.

If he chooses to pursue another term, he’ll face at least one primary opponent, lawyer and businessman Jason Nassour, who filed paperwork on Tuesday in preparation for his bid. The fifth-generation Texan is a co-founder of KOKE FM as well as a partner at the law firm Keel & Nassour, along with Terry Keel, former Travis County sheriff and state representative.

While his campaign is still in the nascent stages – Nassour still has no website or active social media presence – he gave the Monitor a glimpse of the issues he plans to address on the trail, including one particularly bold idea.

“Right now, we have half a billion dollars in real estate owned by the county in the city limits of Austin,” Nassour said. “We can sell that land and build our own complex out on unincorporated land and operate all the services there.”

Nassour said he doesn’t have any one particular location in mind but suggested that the wide open spaces along State Highway 130 in the eastern part of the county could be suitable.

Nassour also said that he is running to prevent tax hikes, to “adequately fund” law enforcement and to ensure the construction of State Highway 45 Southwest.

The first-time candidate didn’t show any signs of intimidation at the prospect of running against Daugherty, who is in his third term as commissioner of the sprawling precinct that covers much of western Travis County as well as downtown Austin and West Campus. Daugherty was elected to consecutive terms in 2002 and 2004, then was defeated by Democrat Karen Huber, but won his seat back in 2012.

Nassour accused Daugherty of “kowtowing” before his Democratic colleagues and cited the incumbent’s support for the doomed Civil & Family Courts Complex as evidence. Nassour told the Monitor that he will style himself as “a conservative without concessions.”

When asked about Nassour’s plan to build a one-stop-shop for all county services – including courthouses and jails – Daugherty chuckled and said, “That’d be a pretty interesting deal. I think there would be all sorts of issues with it. But if that’s what someone thinks is right and would attract voters, it would be interesting to see how far that’ll fly.”

In the meantime, Democrat David Holmes is still a man alone in the race for his party’s nomination for the Precinct 3 chair. He has been quietly campaigning since June and has already secured the endorsement of the Travis County Sheriffs’ Law Enforcement Association.

In an email, Holmes told the Monitor that he’ll use his skills as a professional mediator to build bridges between the western and eastern halves of Travis County. “I understand that effective representation means more than simply saying ‘no’ when your precinct differs from the rest of the county,” Holmes said. He added that he intends to focus on overdevelopment in the precinct and fight against “the inefficiencies and duplication of service that increase our tax bills.”

The filing deadline for candidates to join either race is Dec. 14. Primary election day is on March 1.

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