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Filing deadline reveals twist in sheriff’s race

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

Monday’s filing deadline for the Republican and Democratic primary elections in Texas has come and gone, and one name in particular is strikingly absent from the field seeking to replace Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton: Sheriff Hamilton himself.

The incumbent made waves earlier this year when he announced his plans to step aside at the end of his third term. He again churned the local pool when he seemed to reverse that decision in September and declare that he was in fact interested in running again.

Hamilton played coy throughout the fall, leaving watchers guessing and waiting for the deadline to see how strong his interest was. In the end, it appears it wasn’t appreciably strong enough.

Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of candidates seeking to replace Hamilton, who was first elected in November 2003. Lakeway Police Chief Todd Radford, former Austin Police Lt. John Sisson, Travis County Deputy Don Rios and Precinct 3 Constable Sally Hernandez made their candidacies official by filing with the Democratic Party. Retired Deputy Joe Martinez is the sole Republican in the race.

Hamilton proved popular enough to win three elections to serve as sheriff, but his administration has not been spared its share of controversy. He has drawn consistent public criticism over his support of a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that exposed detainees at Travis County jails to immigration checks and possible deportations. Also unpopular was the gradual replacement of in-person visitations with video visitations, which occurred under his watch.

President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order dealing with immigration policy all but ended the controversial ICE program, while the Commissioners Court voted in September to reinstate in-person visitations at Travis County Adult Correctional Complex in Del Valle.

Even so, all four Democratic candidates have strenuously distanced themselves from Hamilton’s policies, leaving little other than experience and management style to draw distinctions between them.

In other county races, the surprises weren’t so dramatic. Running to replace outgoing Precinct 1 County Commissioner Ron Davis are Democrats Jeff Travillion, James Nortey, Richard Franklin III, Arthur Sampson and Marc Hoskins. Republican Pat McCord is also in the race.

As expected, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty has a primary challenger for his Precinct 3 seat in the form of lawyer Jason Nassour. David Holmes is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination to represent western Travis County on the Commissioners Court.

Finally, recent bad press seems to have helped Gary Cobb earn two challengers in his quest for the Democratic nod for district attorney. Former County Attorney Margaret Moore and onetime DA candidate Rick Reed have also filed to try to replace Rosemary Lehmberg. The winner of that contest will eventually face the lone Republican candidate Maura Phelan in November.

Primary election day is March 1.

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