Austin TX non-presidential candidates

Spent the evening going through my ballot for the upcoming election, looking at all the contested races and trying to find info on the candidates. It must be so convenient to be a partisan, just check the “straight party ticket” box and you’re done…

Anyway, here are my preliminary notes and thoughts, in case anyone wants to try to convince me to vote differently or point me at more information.

(This article contains absolutely no Trump.)

(Updated 2016-10-16, 2016-10-22.)

District 21 race: Tom Wakely (Democrat)

He’s the only one who seems to have a hope in hell of beating the appalling Lamar Smith.

Railroad Commissioner: Mark Miller (Libertarian)

Judging from the writeup in the Dallas Morning News, Wayne Christian is your typical corrupt industry-owned Republican, Grady Yarbrough is a career politician with no energy industry experience, and Martina Salinas didn’t bother to respond. Mark Miller is running as a Libertarian, but he favors responsible government oversight and thinks the Commission has denied the science linking fracking to seismic events. Oh, and he has decades of industry experience and a Stanford PhD. So that’s an easy one.

Chronicle doesn’t endorse anyone for this position.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Place 3: Debra Lehrmann (Republican)

When Katie Glass ran for governor her platform included support for photo ID laws to reduce voting, a ban on gay-marriage, keeping discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender orientation legal, a national “stand your ground” law, and so on. Basically, she’s a Republican tenther, but running as a Libertarian because she hates taxes so much she wants to slash the state budget by 50%.

Debra Lehrmann is the Republican candidate. As far as I can tell, she’s reasonable — she’s a frequent dissenter, particularly on so-called “tort reform” (i.e. limiting people’s right to sue) and education for all. The Austin Chronicle endorsed her in the past, so does the Dallas Morning News.

Mike Westergren apparently sees no problems with mandatory arbitration clauses, which raises massive red flags for me, and I can’t find any reason to favor him though the Chronicle endorses him. Rodolfo Rivera Muñoz wants to be the first Native American on the Texas supreme court, which would be great, but I think I need more reasons than that.

Let’s reward the reasonable Republican with the experience.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Place 5: Dori Contreras Garza

Paul Green is the incumbent Republican. He’s apparently not particularly political, has a ton of experience, and beat out a Chuck Norris-endorsed teabagger in the primary. He’s highly regarded by members of the bar.

Tom Oxford is another reasonable Libertarian. He’s concerned with the way the state supreme court generally overturns jury verdicts to the benefit of corporations, and he does pro bono work in immigration cases.

However, Dori Contreras Garza is endorsed by the Dallas Morning News; she’s the one Democrat who might conceivably appeal to Republicans and stand a chance at making the supreme court more diverse. Also endorsed by the Chronicle.

Oxford won’t win based on his performance last time; Garza just might. Tactical voting time.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Place 9: Nobody.

Savannah Robinson is the Democratic challenger, endorsed by the AFL-CIO, but seems lightweight and doesn’t seem to be campaigning. Her answers to the League of Women Voters’ guide are vague too.

Eva Guzman is the first Latina on the Texas Supreme Court. She seems to be pretty reasonable and extremely experienced.

Don Fulton is the Libertarian candidate, and also seems reasonable.

Oh, yeah, there’s a Green Party candidate: “Chisholm practices only Social Security Disability and Medicaid Nursing Home Eligibility Law”. OK then.

Will leave this blank unless someone gives me a reason to pick one of ’em. Simply being a Democrat isn’t enough to get my vote, and Eva Guzman seems totally focused on endorsements from assholes like Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Place 2: Lawrence “Larry” Meyers

Incumbent Democrat Lawrence “Larry” Meyers used to be a Republican until 2013, and opposes voter ID laws. He apparently put up fake parking signs, but I’m prepared to overlook that. Also endorsed by the Chronicle.

Republican Mary Lou Keel is heavily endorsed by law enforcement and tea party groups, which really puts me off, as does the fact that her speciality seems to be prosecuting death penalty cases. The Houston Chronicle seems to like her, as does the Dallas Morning News.

I can’t find out anything substantial about the Libertarian candidate, and the green candidate is the DWI King.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Place 5: Nobody!

The Democratic candidate is Betsy Johnson. I can’t find out anything about her, and the Dallas Morning News seems to have the same problem, so they prefer Scott Walker. However, Walker is pro death penalty and idolizes Scalia, so he’s out. Betsy Johnson didn’t bother to respond to the League of Women Voters’ questionnaire.

Can’t find much about William Bryan Strange III, the Libertarian candidate, who also failed to respond to the LWV. Judith Sanders-Castro the Green candidate is also elusive, and her LWV responses were minimal.

Since nobody seems to be providing any information, a pox on all of them.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Place 6: Mark W. Bennett

Judge Robert Burns vs Judge Mike Keasler. Based on a quick comparison I don’t have strong feelings either way, but lean slightly towards Burns, who is also endorsed by the Chronicle, albeit with no explanation why.

Perhaps the answer is Mark W. Bennett, the Libertarian. He has a blog and seems like a no-bullshit kind of guy.

State Board of Education District 5: Rebecca Bell-Metereau

Ken Mercer: Republican culture warrior.

Rebecca Bell-Metereau: Democrat, an actual educator.

That was easy.

State Representative District 51: Katija “Kat” Gruene

Democrat Eddie Rodriguez is running against Green Party candidate Katija “Kat” Gruene in a two-way race.

Kat Gruene supports paper ballots, basic income, ending the Federal Reserve, universal healthcare, etc etc.

I’ve nothing against Eddie Rodriguez, but this is my chance to indulge my third party left-libertarian tendencies, vote for someone who promotes policies I’ve written in favor of, and maybe give the Green Party a boost.

District Attorney for 53rd Judicial District: Margaret Moore

Maura Phelan vs Margaret Moore.

Obviously Maura Phelan has by far the most amusing name for a DA, and her policies seem reasonable.

However, Margaret Moore has the Chronicle endorsement, law enforcement endorsement, and wants to restore funding to the Public Integrity Unit.

Sheriff: Sally Hernandez

Joe Martinez (Republican private dick) seems reasonable enough on his web site, but the Chronicle says he’s the “law enforcement” candidate and that he supports ICE holds and doesn’t favor body cameras. ICE holds are when federal ICE officers request that police detain people, and the cops just do it without a warrant even though it’s not their job. Another program has ICE given access to county jail records so they can drop in and deport anyone they’re looking for who is arrested for a minor offense; only Martinez supports that.

Meanwhile, Sally Hernandez (Democrat) has masses of info on her web site and it all seems reasonable to me, i.e. flamingly liberal. The Statesman seems to think that Hernandez’s lack of desire to help ICE will just lead to clashes with the state, and that it’s not worth it. The Chronicle, on the other hand, likes her.

The Green Party candidate is Debbie Russell. Maybe her if I can be convinced?

I can’t find any info on the Libertarian candidate except an angry note from an ex-girlfriend.

County Tax Assessor-Collector: Bruce Elfant

Beardy Libertarian Steven Haskett apparently worked on the computerized tax collection system used for vehicle title and registration taxes, yet writes:

It saddens me we need a tax collector. In the words of Dr. Mary Ruwart, “Taxation appears to be more than theft; it is intolerance for the preferences and even the moral viewpoints of our neighbors. Through taxation we forcibly impose our will on others in an attempt to control their choices.”

A tax collector who believes it’s morally wrong to collect taxes and worked for the tax office for 7 years?

Bruce Elfant is the incumbent and the other candidate, so him I guess. Also the Chronicle endorsement.

ACC place 4

Sean Hassan. LSE and Stanford graduate and former educator, clearly has the most experience and knowledge. Also a Muslim, and has all the Democratic and Union endorsements, plus the Chronicle.

ACC place 5

Thomas Miranda seems to have all the endorsements, and had the best answer in a brief Q&A. The Chronicle ultimately prefers Schoggins, but says they’re all pretty good.

ACC place 6

Nora de Hoyos Comstock, also the Chronicle’s endorsement. Opposition is realtor and ex-CEO Douglas Gibbins, and he lacks the experience as well as maybe having too much of a commercial mindset.