January 18, 2006
Runoff in HD48

It's Donna Howard and Ben Bentzin in a runoff for HD48.

Howard finished with 49.5 percent of the vote, narrowly missing an outright victory in the special election, according to unofficial final returns. Bentzin followed with 37.8 percent.

Democrat Kathy Rider and Libertarian Ben Easton finished a distant third and fourth, respectively, in the race to represent House District 48, which includes parts of West Austin and northwestern Travis County.

Gov. Rick Perry has not set a runoff date, but it will probably be in February.

"We feel very positive about where we are," said Howard, a former Eanes school board member. "I think it's a real strong statement about this community caring about public education, caring about strengthening the community and being tired of the gridlock at the Legislature."

Bentzin, a former Dell Inc. executive, said he was thrilled to advance to the runoff.

"In the special election, I was running against a field of several other candidates," Bentzin said. "In the runoff election, now we have a clear choice between two candidates, and that's what we'll be communicating to voters."

He began that effort Tuesday night by pointing out that he, and not Howard, ruled out support for a personal income tax during a candidate forum last week. A campaign aide to Howard called the issue a "red herring" because state leaders have said an income tax will not be seriously considered in an upcoming special legislative session on school finance.

Political consultant and lobbyist Bill Miller, a close ally of some Republican leaders, described Tuesday's results as surprising because the seat was drawn in 2001 to elect a Republican. He said it could signal that good times are ahead for other Texas Democrats as they try to pick up seats in a Republican-controlled Legislature this year.

"She still has to win, and you have a runoff," Miller said. "But it's a big warning to Republicans to take a look at the issues that are surfacing in this race and how they play with the electorate."

BOR has the numbers, and Texas Whip adds some analysis. Howard and fellow Democrat Kathy Rider combined for almost 60% of the vote. That bodes very well for the runoff and for whatever rematch is pending in November.

As for the March primary:

Rider said Tuesday night that she will drop out of the March Democratic primary, which will determine who will face Bentzin in November for a full, two-year term that will start in January 2007.

"I think the Democrats are going to take the seat in the runoff, and we're pleased," Rider said.

Andy Brown, who signed up for the March Democratic primary but was ineligible for the special election because he has lived in the district for less than a year, said he would work vigorously for Howard in the runoff. But he would not answer whether he still planned to run in the March primary.

Brown filed for the primary but of course can still drop out, as Rider says she will. We'll see what he does. In the meantime, my congratulations to Donna Howard for her strong showing. If all goes as I believe it will, she'll change the partisan makeup in the State House from 87-63 to 86-64 in time for the upcoming special sessions on education.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 18, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Congrats to the Donna Howard and I hope her election is the first of several strong showings for Texas Democrats. Go Donna Go!

Posted by: Red Dog on January 18, 2006 6:05 PM

First Hubert Vo, now this.

Winning 'em back, one seat at a time.

I hope the pace speeds up, though. At this rate, it'll be another 11 years before we have a Democratic House again.

Posted by: Mathwiz on January 20, 2006 10:27 AM