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Here's A Look At The Travis County Races On The Ballot This Election

Travis County residents vote at Austin Central Library during early voting.
Julia Reihs
Travis County residents vote at Austin Central Library during early voting.

The top of the ballot may hold a lot of the draw this election season, but in Travis County, there are a handful of top county offices up for grabs. Sure, not all of those races are competitive. Some, in fact, are already decided – and others, at least as far as conventional wisdom would tell you, are more or less decided in deeply Democratic Travis County.

Here's a look at some of the races – competitive and otherwise – that Travis County voters will decide on this election.

Competitive Races

460th Criminal District Court

Republican Judge Geoffrey Puryear is fending off a challenge from Selena Alvarenga, a longtime attorney and a member of the City of Austin's Public Safety Commission.

A former Williamson County prosecutor, Puryear was appointed to oversee the then-new court, which handles felony cases, by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2019.

Travis County District Attorney

José Garza is heavily favored to take over the office currently held by District Attorney Margaret Moore. Garza bested Moore by a shockingly large margin in the July runoff for the Democratic primary, running on a pledge to better investigate and prosecute sexual assault cases and prosecute cases involving police violence.

Garza previously headed up the Workers Defense Project and worked as an immigration attorney as well.

His Republican opponent, Martin Harry, has made similar arguments about the need for better accountability as it relates to the prosecution and investigation of sexual assault cases. He's also running on a platform that's critical of Austin's policies related to homelessness.

Keep in mind, Moore won this seat in 2016, garnering nearly twice as many votes as her GOP opponent.

Travis County Judge

State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt's victory in the special election to take over Kirk Watson's long-held seat in Texas Senate District 14 left a vacancy in the county's top position, Travis County judge.

Judge Sam Biscoe, who held the position for 15 years before Eckhardt, has been at the helm in her stead, but Travis County voters will decide who takes up that mantle this election.

Democrat Andy Brown and Republican Michael Lovins are hoping to take over the position. Both candidates were chosen by their respective parties after Eckhardt's runoff victory.

Lovins is a practicing trial lawyer, who argues the Travis County Sheriff's Office should be doing more to fill the "public safety gap" created by Austin's policies surrounding homelessness and the city's decision to cut funding to the Austin Police Department.

Lovins also opposes the city's Proposition A, which would approve a tax increase to pay for Project Connect, arguing its reliance on light rail is "an Industrial Revolution solution to an Information Age problem." He believes the county should take a larger role in building out additional roadways and incentivizing telework to reduce congestion.

Brown is an attorney, a former EMT and a longtime Democratic party operative. He was an aide for Beto O'Rourke during O’Rourke’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and his run for presidency. Brown previously chaired the Travis County Democratic Party.

He opposes a roughly $79-million plan to build a new women's jail, arguing the county could use that money to invest more heavily in mental and behavioral health diversion programs to keep people from Travis County jails. He's said he would support Prop A, but argues the county could do more to better invest in infrastructure, particularly along FM 620 in Northwest Austin. 

Travis County Commissioners Court Precinct 3

This is one of the more competitive races on the ballot for voters in West Austin and Western Travis County.

Longtime Republican County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty announced last December that he's retiring after 15 years on the court. He's long held that he's the only elected Republican in Travis County, so it's a big deal.

Democrat Ann Howard, who formerly ran the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition in Austin – also known as ECHO – is running against Republican Becky Bray for the seat.

Bray is an engineer who's been endorsed by Daugherty, and this is, again, a seat he's held for 15 years. The precinct includes West Austin, Lakeway, Lago Vista and the furthest western reaches of the county.

It'll be interesting to see if the massive turnout in Austin leads to this precinct changing hands, as far as party goes. If so, that would mean the end of the GOP's hold on this district – and that Republicans would have no seat at the table at the Commissioners Court.

Travis County Commissioners Court Precinct 1

Incumbent Commissioner Jeff Travillion is facing GOP challenger Solomon Arcoven. Travillion has been a strong advocate for equity in East Austin. Specifically, he fought to expand access to COVID-19 testing in East Austin, and he was very visible in the negotiations to bring a Tesla factory to East Austin.

Arcoven has been running on a platform to build out more roads and infrastructure in East Travis County, which is seemingly something on which both candidates agree.

Still, East Austin is a Democratic stronghold. Travillion garnered nearly three times as many votes as his nearest challenger, Republican Pat McCord, in 2016.

County Court at Law Judge No. 9

Incumbent Judge Kim Williams is facing Libertarian challenger Christopher David this election. Williams was first elected to the court in 2016 and ran unopposed.

Travis County Sheriff

Incumbent Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez is facing a challenge from Raul Vargas, a former major with the Texas Department of Public Safety who's worked in law enforcement for 35 years.

Vargas is running on a platform to increase the department's enforcement of crime related to homelessness and to better cooperate with immigration authorities.

This is a bit misleading, as the county currently does comply with state law that requires law enforcement to cooperate and share information with immigration authorities.

Hernandez has argued that the Travis County Sheriff's Office isn't tasked with enforcing Austin's city ordinances, and has focused more of her campaign messaging on her support of the county's new women's jail. While her opponents said the county should simply repurpose old county properties to accommodate female inmates, Hernandez has argued a new facility is the better route, as it could also more adequately provide mental and behavioral health treatments as well.

Hernandez won this race with almost 63% of the vote in 2016.

Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector

Longtime Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant faces Republican challenger Marilyn Jackson and Libertarian Erica Lockwood. Elfant has held the office since 2012, when he took over the office that handles property tax collection and voter registration on the part of the county.

Decided Races

Top of the list for the decided races is the race for who will take over for retiring Travis County Attorney David Escamilla. Republicans fielded no candidate for that race, and Delia Garza beat out Laurie Eiserloh in the Democratic primary runoff in July. Garza will formally ascend to the position once all the votes are counted.

As is often the case in Travis County, the judicial slate is also largely decided. Thirteen Democrats have ostensibly been elected to their positions behind the bench after July's primary runoffs. Regardless, they'll appear on ballots across the county.

  • Delia Garza, County Attorney
  • Maria Cantú Hexsel, District Judge for the 53rd Civil District
  • Rhonda Hurley, District Judge for the 98th Civil District Court
  • Aurora Martinez Jones, District Judge for the 126th Civil District Court
  • Dayna Blazey, District Judge for the 167th Criminal District Court
  • Jessica Mangrum, District Judge for the 200th Civil District Court
  • Jan Soifer, District Judge for the 345th Civil District Court
  • Madeleine Connor, District Judge for the 353rd Civil District Court
  • Julie Kocurek, District Judge for the 390th Criminal District Court
  • Tamara Needles, District Judge for the 427th Criminal District Court
  • Brad Urrutia, District Judge for the 450th Criminal District Court
  • Dimple Malhotra, County Court at Law Judge No. 4
  • Carlos Barrera, County Court at Law Judge No. 8
  • George Morales, County Constable Precinct 4

Got a tip? Email Andrew Weber at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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