| More Democratic Clubs cast their ballots last week at the multi-club endorsement forum. You can read the various candidates' questionnaires here.
Below is a chart showing the winners of the Capital Area Asian American Democrats (CAAAD), Capital Area Progressive Democrats (CAPD), Circle C Area Democrats (CCAD; and yes, there are Democrats in Circle C, lots of them, and they are awesome!), Northeast Travis County Democrats (NETCO), and Austin Tejano Democrats (ATD). I am also including the endorsement threshold, or the percent of votes each candidate needed to receive to earn the endorsement. These thresholds are set up by the clubs' by-laws. Higher thresholds can be more difficult to reach depending on the number of club members.
Quick note: "n/a" means the club did not consider the race (some clubs do not endorse in races that are outside of their geographic area) and None means no candidate met the threshold for endorsement.
| || CAAAD || CAPD || CCAD || NETCO || ATD |
| Endorsement Threshold || 50% || 55% || 55% || 65% || 60% |
| US Senate || Sadler || Sadler || Sadler || Sadler || n/a |
| Travis DA || Lehmberg || Lehmberg || Lehmberg || None || Lehmberg |
| Travis Sheriff || Hamilton || Hamilton || None || Hamilton || Sisson |
| Travis Tax/VR || Elfant || Elfant || Elfant || Elfant || Elfant |
| Travis 167th || de la Fuente || de la Fuente || None || None || de la Fuente |
| Constable Pct 1 || Thomas || Thomas || n/a || n/a || Thomas |
| Constable Pct 2 || Ballesteros || Ballesteros || n/a || Ballesteros || Ballesteros |
| Constable Pct 3 || Hernandez || Hernandez || McCain || n/a || Hernandez |
| Constable Pct 4 || Canchola || Canchola || n/a || n/a || None |
| Commissioner Pct 1 || Davis || Davis || n/a || None || Gonzales |
| Commissioner Pct 3 || Huber || Huber || Huber || n/a || None |
A few notes and observations:
- Efrain de la Fuente had an impressive run of victories of these clubs, winning all 3 that endorsed, and now has a lead in club endorsements (I believe it is 5-3, feel free to correct me). Arguably this is where the early start to his campaign paid off (he was in and campaigning hard several months before David Wahlberg) -- he's had more time to call every single member of every club and earn their votes. Also, there seems to be little traction for Bryan Case at this point, so perhaps he might want to ponder taking his considerable appellate experience and running for the 3rd Court of Appeals in the remaining open Democratic place on the ballot.
- The Austin Tejano Democrats endorsed challenger John Sisson over incumbent Sheriff Greg Hamilton, likely due to controversy surrounding Travis County's immigration and deportation issues. They also went for Victor Gonzales in County Commissioner Pct 1. This has traditionally been an African-American seat on the County Court, though due to population changes, the district has grown more Hispanic. Gonzales, the Mayor Pro Tem of Pflugerville, hasn't had much of a visible campaign presence in the Democratic club scene yet, though he did show up at the multi-club forum this week. Given that the three other challengers are African-American, it will be interesting to see if Gonzales can build a coalition of Hispanic voters and Pflugervillans and make it into a run-off.
- Incumbent Precinct 2 Constable Adan Ballesteros has continued to pick up endorsements over challenger and professional gun nut Michael Cargill. Cargill has taken to his Facebook page to decry the "Democratic establishment" that apparently is preventing him from gaining traction. He recently wrote, "We have 1% of Austin controlling endorsements in this county. I need the help of the 99%." Maybe what's happening is people are realizing that he's a) a gun nut who b) voted for Debra Medina and c) is seemingly only running to promote his CHL training business. Oh, and he wants to arm college students and repeal federal Gun Free School Zones and the background checks before gun purchases legalized by the Brady Bill. No big deal. Guns for everyone! Not.
- No big surprises in the DA's race as incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg won four of the five endorsements over challenger Charlie Baird, with no candidate meeting NETCO's endorsement threshold.
- There are a few surprises in these endorsements -- the Austin Tejano Democrats had no candidate meet the 60% threshold in the Pct 4 constable race, though challenger Ernest Pedraza apparently earned more votes than incumbent Maria Canchola. Additionally, neither candidate in the Precinct 3 commissioner's race earned their endorsement, though incumbent Karen Huber won the other three up for grabs over challenger Albert Gonzales.
- Arguably the most interesting endorsement here is Circle C's choice of incumbent Richard McCain over challenger Sally Hernandez for Precinct 3 constable. To date Hernandez had swept every public safety, labor, and Democratic endorsement. However, the club most firmly rooted in the district went for McCain. In a post to the group's Facebook page, one member noted that McCain ran and ousted a Republican when no one else thought it was possible, and has been active in the community.
- Tax Assessor / Voter Registrar frontrunner Bruce Elfant remains the only candidate to win every. single. endorsement. to date. No ties, no "no endorsements," no failing to meet a threshold. It's just all Bruce all the time. The man is a Democratic juggernaut! More importantly, he's vastly qualified and a tremendous public servant, with a real vision for how our Tax Assessor / Voter Registrar can do even more to reflect the values of our community.
Yet to endorse in the 2012 primaries are West Austin Democrats (WAD), North by Northwest Democrats (NXNW), Black Austin Democrats (BAD), St. Edward's Democrats, and Capital City Young Democrats (CCYD). Also not endorsing to date are Tall Austin Democrats (TAD), Democrats with Last Names Beginning with 'B' (BDems), or Apartment Dwelling Democrats (ADD).
Now, obviously I'm poking fun at the process, but this raises a valid question: do any of these club endorsements matter? Well, yes. Plenty of the clubs spend money to support their candidates, from sending postcards and robo-calls in support of their endorsed candidates, and also volunteer in their endorsed candidates' campaign offices. These clubs also provide that all-important list of endorsements on mailers or TV ads that local hyper-partisan Democrats have come to look for around voting time. It not only looks bad if the Democratic clubs all vote for your opponent instead of you, it suggests that for some reason your campaign isn't getting any traction with the voters.
The endorsements also signal momentum, and can help indicate to the broader electorate and media who the frontrunners are in a given race. In some cases it can also indicate which candidates are actually working hard to win the endorsements, by attending the clubs' meetings, calling their members and asking for support, and often even joining and serving as an officer in these clubs. They also represent a well-organized effort to GOTV the club members for the actual endorsement meetings. Supporters are great, but if they don't show up and "do stuff" that helps you win, well...
These endorsements represent who's leading the "Democratic insider" race, as it is primarily the most locally engaged Democratic activists who join these clubs and vote in these endorsements, in an effort to signal who they think is the best person for the job. In past cycles, some campaigns have endeavored to sign up friends and random people for these clubs simply to stuff the ballot box during the endorsement season. However, we haven't seen too much of that here, or not on a level that seems to have vastly changed the outcome of any given club.
For better or worse, that's the system we've got, and it's one that has been fine-tuned over the last few decades here in Austin. Only during years of extraordinarily high turnout (2008, anyone?) does this "system" really break down and enable primary candidates who don't win the vast majority of club endorsements to win at the ballot box. Otherwise, the hyper-engaged Democrats who vote in every single primary (and most of the run-offs to boot) tend to vote as the clubs do, unless there's any other game-changers out there -- for instance, newspaper endorsements or really effective attack ads. And, of course, in a Democratic primary, female candidates and names that indicate an obvious minority can also receive a boost in the voting booth from voters who don't know anything about the other candidates.
The remaining clubs should endorse within the next two weeks -- just in time to take a quick breather before doing it all again for the Austin City Council elections!