“Austin mayor’s race heading to a runoff, Dallas county judge winning reelection bid” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
In the state’s last major urban county dominated by the GOP, Republicans look primed to keep control of Tarrant County’s top elected position as Tim O’Hare leads Democrat Deborah Peoples by a large margin with more than 90% of votes counted, according to the Tarrant County elections office.
O’Hare and Peoples are vying to replace Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican who did not seek reelection.
Peoples is the underdog in this race. Tarrant County voters have recently supported Democrats at the top of the ballot — Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate in 2018 and President Joe Biden in 2020 — but tend to vote for Republicans on the rest of the ballot.
Those two wins — along with population growth and GOP infighting this year — have boosted Democrats’ hopes that they could see gains elsewhere on the ballot, such as in the county judge’s race. Peoples has tried to fashion herself as a business-friendly Democrat in hopes that she can woo moderate and business-minded Republicans turned off by O’Hare’s history of culture war conservatism. O’Hare co-founded Southlake Families PAC, which successfully opposed a plan to address racial discrimination at a school district in northeast Tarrant County.
O’Hare, a former mayor of Farmers Branch backed by former President Donald Trump, opened a huge fundraising advantage over Peoples, a retired AT&T executive who twice ran unsuccessful campaigns for Fort Worth mayor. O’Hare has raised more than $1 million since July 1 and spent nearly as much — dwarfing Peoples’ $193,000 haul and $228,000 spent over the same time period.
Disclosure: AT&T has been financial supporter of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Just east of Tarrant County in reliably blue Dallas County, the race for the county’s top elected position has seen more heat than usual — but the incumbent Democrat had a large lead as he seeks reelection.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat first elected to the seat in 2010, had a commanding lead over Republican Lauren Davis, a first-time candidate who owns a chain of barber shops, with more than 90% of the votes counted, according to the Dallas County elections office.
Jenkins rose to greater prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic — becoming a chief antagonist of Gov. Greg Abbott as the governor overrode local officials’ authority to institute measures like mask mandates and occupancy restrictions for businesses.
Those restrictions put in place by Jenkins have fueled a challenge from Davis, who told The Dallas Morning News the measures harmed her business and blamed Jenkins.
Davis raised more than $1 million since July and spent nearly $1.2 million to unseat the 58-year-old lawyer. Jenkins, meanwhile, raised nearly $323,000 and spent almost $465,000.
Dallas County has gone Democratic at the top of the ticket in every election since 2008.
Two Democratic heavyweights have advanced to a runoff election to lead Austin as the state capital grapples with rapid population growth, skyrocketing living costs and rising homelessness.
With nearly all precincts reporting late Tuesday, state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, was leading a crowded field, followed by former state Sen. Kirk Watson. Jennifer Virden, a real estate broker, was in third place. They were all shy of earning the majority of votes needed to secure a victory.
Israel and Watson will meet in the runoff election on Dec. 13.
It was a crowded field, with six names on the ballot to succeed Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who has to leave office because of term limits.
Watson and Israel are Democrats, though the mayor’s seat is technically nonpartisan. Watson served as the city’s mayor from 1997 to 2001.
Austin’s housing affordability crisis has taken center stage in the race after the city’s already-rising housing costs were supercharged during the pandemic. During that time, new residents flocked to the city from more expensive parts of the country and millennials and so-called institutional investors entered the home-buying market in full force.
Watson and Israel both put out proposals for how to tackle the city’s housing crunch. Watson wants to overhaul the city’s development review process and allow construction of taller mixed-use developments to create more housing units. Israel has proposed using city-owned land to build housing and reducing the city’s parking requirements for new residential developments, which would allow room for more housing units.
Watson raised nearly $358,000 since July and spent more than $1 million, while Israel raised nearly $156,000 and spent about $288,000.
Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chair, has been financial supporter of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/11/08/texas-local-race-results/.
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