Travillion moves to runoff with major lead
Wednesday, March 2, 2016 by Jack Craver
A five-man race for the vacant Travis County Commissioners Court Precinct 1 chair narrowed to two on Tuesday night, after results showed Jeff Travillion finishing well ahead of the pack with 41.67 percent of the vote and Arthur Sampson finishing in a distant second, with 18.5 percent, just ahead of third-place finisher James Nortey, who got 17.92 percent.
Nortey’s third-place finish was a surprise; many insiders had assumed he would advance to the runoff against Travillion. He had the support of prominent political players and a substantial war chest.
Travillion and Sampson will now face off in a runoff election on May 24. Travillion is the overwhelming favorite.
“We think that we put together a positive message that focused on the most important issues, and I think that voters agreed that the issues and priorities that our campaign focused on are things that need attention,” Travillion told the Austin Monitor.
Sampson, who ran unsuccessfully against outgoing Commissioner Ron Davis in the three previous elections, offered a subdued response when informed by the Monitor shortly after midnight that he had advanced to the runoff.
“Well, that’s good,” he said.
“It’s hard to beat the incumbent,” he added, describing his past races, “but I stuck with it, and I know the issues.”
Sampson emphasized his range of experience when describing what he could bring to elected office, including his 12 years as a police officer and his experience running a business.
Earlier, Travillion said that his campaign had refused to go negative, drawing a contrast with Nortey, whose campaign recently sent out a mailer highlighting a $5,000 contribution that the frontrunner received from a registered lobbyist who works for companies affiliated with Koch Industries. The lobbyist, Travillion said, was an old friend, and he said his contribution had nothing to do with the right-wing politics favored by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of the Kansas-based petrochemical conglomerate.
Travillion blamed the attack on Nortey’s campaign manager, Nick Hudson, who Travillion said often resorted to “gutter politics.”
“It’s absurd, and it’s intellectually dishonest,” he said. “He should be ashamed of himself.”
The Precinct 1 position has been occupied by Commissioner Ron Davis since he was first elected in 1998. Davis said last summer that he would not endorse in the race and has thus far stayed out of the contest to replace him.
The race has not yet been marked by strong ideological distinctions between any of the candidates, all of whom are Democrats. The main differences come in style and experience.
Travillion, 52, a longtime activist who has worked in a number of roles in city government, is supported by much of the old guard of Austin’s Democratic and progressive political establishment. At his election night gathering at Torchy’s Tacos in Mueller, Travillion said that his professional experience and civic engagement distinguished him from his opponents.
Nortey, a 29-year-old Harvard alumnus, included lengthy explanations of policy on his website and claimed that he was the only candidate offering solutions to address the “affordability crisis.”
He championed paid parental leave, for instance, saying that Travis County should set an example for local employers by offering paid leave to its own employees. He also talked about more tax incremental financing, more revenue for affordable housing programs and land banking.
Richard Franklin III and Marc Hoskins came in third and fourth place, with 11.4 percent and 10.5 percent of the vote, respectively. Overall, 23,853 people voted in the Democratic race.
The winner of the May runoff will go on to face Pat McCord – who ran unopposed in the Republican primary – in the November election.
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