Today is the day that voters in Austin go to the polls to replace Rep. Todd Baxter.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in House District 48, the seat that Baxter, R-Austin, held for almost three years. He resigned in November and now lobbies for the cable industry.
Republican Ben Bentzin, Libertarian Ben Easton and Democrats Donna Howard and Kathy Rider are competing for the seat. The top two finishers will meet in a runoff election if nobody grabs a majority of the vote today.
Bentzin is a retired Dell Inc. executive, and Easton is a former teacher. Howard is a former nurse, and Rider is a clinical social worker.
The winner of the election will serve until Baxter's term expires at the end of this year. Normally, the Legislature does not meet in even-numbered years, but Gov. Rick Perry plans to call a special session, most likely in April or May, to address the state's school finance system, which the Texas Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional.
Perry, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, joined Bentzin on Monday to air support for him. Perry, responding to a reporter's query, objected to criticism of Bentzin's support for a pilot program that would let students in failing urban schools attend private schools with government aid.
Any such critiques amount to a "red herring," a "scam" and a "con game" on voters, Perry said, because the high-performing Eanes school district in House District 48 would not be in a pilot.
The House district, however, also includes portions of the Austin, Leander, Lago Vista and Marble Falls school districts. Perry said school vouchers most likely will not be taken up by legislators until at least 2007.