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Shea cruises to Precinct 2 win

Wednesday, March 2, 2022 by Seth Smalley

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea defended her eight-year commissionership last night, resoundingly winning the Precinct 2 primary – and de facto the entire election given the substantial Democratic majority in Travis County – by fending off progressive challenger Bob Libal.

“I am honored to have the support of so many of the voters in Precinct 2,” Shea told the Austin Monitor. “I am looking forward to diving back into the work that I’ve been doing for climate change and to better prepare our community to push for more affordable housing and push for needed criminal justice reform.”

Shea won 77 percent of the early and mail-in ballots, 13,426 votes total, while Libal took just under 4,000, 23 percent of the vote.

Rising to prominence in the Austin political scene as a climate advocate, Shea headed the Save Our Springs Alliance for about two years in the early 90s. Not long afterward, she served on City Council for three years, retiring after the birth of her first child. Shea has been a Travis County commissioner since 2014.

“Lots accomplished! More to do!” reads Shea’s website, citing various county achievements since she took office, including the creation of the public defender’s office and the implementation of neighborhood fire drills.

While Shea has long identified as a progressive, voting for Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 presidential primary, Libal is certainly to her left, winning the endorsements of the national and Austin chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. Libal also earned endorsements from Mijente, progressive Council Member Chito Vela and prominent members of Austin’s Reimagining Public Safety task force. The Austin American-Statesman described Libal as a “credible opponent.”

In the current primary, Shea, a seasoned politician, captured many of the big-ticket endorsements, such as the Austin Firefighters Association, Austin Young Democrats, The Austin Chronicle and the Statesman’s editorial board. Shea ran uncontested – and won – in the 2018 Precinct 2 primary and general election, though she lost her bid for Austin mayor in 2012, with a platform of affordability and protecting quality of life, to incumbent Lee Leffingwell.

Libal entered the race for Travis County commissioner following a successful community campaign – led by his advocacy group Grassroots Leadership and other organizations – to halt a motion at the Commissioners Court to invest $80 million in a county jail expansion plan. Anticipating pushback, Shea and Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion initially resisted the effort with comments in support of the jail investment, though both eventually changed their tune after hours of community testimony opposed to the project.

In a statement provided to the Monitor on Wednesday morning, Libal said, “I’m deeply proud of the people-powered campaign we ran over the past five months. Our focus on investing in housing, substance use, and mental health treatment over building new jails, in supporting families and communities over corporate tax-breaks, and in fighting for a Travis County Green New Deal resonated with thousands of Travis County voters.”

“I want to congratulate Commissioner Shea on a well-run campaign. We spoke last night and agreed to work together on transformational criminal justice reform in Travis County. I told Commissioner Shea she has my full support in continuing to build boldly progressive climate change policy in Travis County,” he concluded.

During his campaign, Libal called for reining in corporate power and ending subsidies to companies like Samsung and Tesla, arguing that tax revenue would be better spent on meeting community needs. He points to the current Commissioners Court decision to approve more than $14 million in tax incentives for Tesla.

Libal is also an outspoken critic of the Texas Department of Transportation’s plan to expand Interstate 35.

“Annually, state and local governments hand somewhere between $45-$90 billion in taxpayer money to corporations with big promises of new jobs and new business that often result in no actual benefits to the local economy. What could instead be invested directly into the community – toward education, health care, housing or public infrastructure – is given to the likes of Elon Musk,” a Libal campaign email reads.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been updated with a statement from Libal.

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