by Daryl Slusher

Today is Election Day, specifically the runoffs from the March Democratic and Republican primaries, plus a special election for Senate District 14 — the seat vacated by now former Senator Kirk Watson. Below is a short summary of what is on the ballot in the Austin area along with a few helpful links.

Also, you are invited to check in on the Austin Independent website tonight where we will report results, discuss what precincts are in and which are still out, and provide other analysis and commentary.

This election of course takes part during the coronavirus pandemic which is hitting Texas, and Austin, particularly hard. State Republican officials successfully prevented the expansion of mail in voting to protect voters during the pandemic. 

However, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir and her staff, who administer elections in Travis County, appear to have done everything in their power to make voting as safe as possible — for both voters and poll workers. There are now glass shields between poll workers and voters. Voters are given popsicle sticks so they can punch their choices onto the screen without actually touching the screen. And, a number of new poll workers have been recruited to ease the burden on what is traditionally an elderly dominated work force — and thus more at risk if they were to get the coronavirus. 

Another thing to keep in mind, which a lot of people already know, is that in Travis County voters can vote at any polling station. A voter is not limited to voting in the polling site in her or his precinct. So get out there and vote. 

For information on voting locations and more please see the Travis County Clerk’s Election website

Also, for an informative, nonpartisan look at the candidates in their own words, it is hard to beat the questionnaire from the League of Women Voters — in this case a joint effort by the League of Women Voters of Texas & League of Women Voters Austin Area. 

Except for the Special Texas Senate election, victors today do not actually win the office, but become their party’s nominee on the November ballot. In some cases that amounts to the same thing, but more races than usual in Texas are expected to be competitive this year.

On The Ballot

Topping today’s ballot in the Democratic primary is the runoff for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Senator John Cornyn in November. M.J. Hegar, the choice of the official Democratic Party national organization, faces veteran Dallas State Senator Royce West.

There are also Democratic runoffs in four US House races for long-gerrymandered districts that touch parts of Austin. And, one of those districts has a Republican runoff.

There is also a race for the Democratic nomination for Railroad Commissioner and a Republican race for the State Board of Education.

The ballot for party nominations to the Texas House was settled in November except for a Republican runoff to take on Democratic incumbent Vicki Goodwin, who ousted Austin bashing Republican Paul Workman in 2018.

Probably the most competitive races on today’s ballot are the races for Travis County offices. There is a runoff for the Precinct 3 seat held by maverick Republican Gerald Daugherty who did not seek reelection. There, former State Representative Valinda Bolton faces off against Ann Howard, until recently Executive Director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO).The winner here will face Republican Becky Bray in November. This is a seat that leans Republican, but has gone back and forth over the years. 

And, at the bottom of the ballot are the District Attorney and County Attorney races. The Austin Independent earlier covered the County Attorney race in March and then discussed both races more recently

In the District Attorney’s race insurgent candidate Jose Garza is challenging incumbent Margaret Moore. In the County Attorney race to replace the departing David Escamilla, current Assistant County Attorney Laurie Eiserloh faces Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.  

In these two races, the winners in today’s Democratic Primary runoff will almost certainly win the offices in November in heavily Democratic Travis County. The Democratic nominee for District Attorney will face Republican Martin Harry. Republicans do not have a candidate for County Attorney. So for all intents and purposes the County Attorney race will be decided today. 


Extra – Joe Biden Launches Ad in Texas.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is launching an ad in Texas. The ad focuses on how coronavirus is sweeping through Texas and offers reassurance to Texans that “I will not abandon you.” The ad says nothing at all about the incumbent President.

The ad may mark an actual serious effort by Biden to win Texas — something Democrats have not attempted for a long, long time.

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