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Ann Howard wins Democratic primary runoff in county commissioner Precinct 3 race

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Ann Howard won Tuesday night’s Democratic Party primary runoff to decide who will compete to replace Gerald Daugherty in representing Precinct 3 on the Travis County Commissioners Court.

“I’ll just start doing some hard work to get to know even more voters, so that I win in November,” Howard told the Austin Monitor on Tuesday. “I think there are a lot of people out there that are looking for a home and a trusted leader in our party.”

Howard (48 percent) and Valinda Bolton (30 percent) came in first and second in the March primary. Small-business owner Shiloh Newman and Service Dogs Inc. founder Sheri Soltes didn’t make the cut.

Early vote totals Tuesday night revealed that Howard had a 66 percent lead over Bolton’s 34 percent.

The conservative Daugherty was first elected to the Commissioners Court in 2002, and unseated by Democratic challenger Karen Huber in 2008. He won the seat back from her in 2013 and formally announced his retirement at the end of last year. Transportation engineer Becky Bray is running to replace him on the Republican side.

“Lots of calls and texts with voters,” Bolton said of running a campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve done weekly news and information videos. We’ve tried to be getting information out to folks, as well as giving people a way to engage with the campaign and having a way for us to engage with them when we can’t really do the things we would’ve normally done during a campaign.”

Bolton, who served two terms in the state House of Representatives beginning in 2006, said in addition to constituents’ immediate concerns about the county’s response to Covid-19, other issues include climate change, traffic congestion and access to health care.

“I haven’t talked to anybody who isn’t enjoying a break from the traffic, but it is a reminder that at some point we’re going to be dealing with that again,” Bolton said. “So we need to be thinking about our traffic and transit needs, and the need for regularly available and secure health care.”

Howard, who left her job as executive director of ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) more than a year ago, said her daily phone calls with constituents have also included concerns about climate change and its implications.

“Fire is a concern,” Howard said. “Through this campaign, we’ve seen fires in California, we’ve seen the fires in Australia. I think climate change is on people’s minds. It’s a fear of ‘can I get out of my neighborhood’ or ‘will I lose my house?'”

She said the job is understanding the balance between wildfire prevention and rescue. “What’s the gap between what we are doing now and what we could be doing?” she asked. “And then how do we deal, with a very limited, stressed budget, to do more?”

Howard noted that she’s spent most of her career focusing on policy rather than politics. She said she appreciates the Travis County Democratic community opening its arms to her over the past year and a half.

“I want to thank everyone who has put up with me in the past 18 months,” she said. “I just feel a great sense of responsibility to have gotten this far. The showing this March with 40 percent with four candidates really humbled me.”

Bolton had touted her previous experience at the Legislature, saying it put her in a good position to win in the general election. Talking to the “purple voters,” she said she has heard their concerns about electing someone who will find common ground with the other commissioners and solutions to their problems.

“When I ran for the state Legislature, I flipped the last Republican-held state rep seat in Travis County from red to blue,” she said. “This Commissioners Court seat is the last Republican-held elected office in Travis County.”

Photo via Facebook.

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