When Sarah Eckhardt tells people that she is considering a run for County Judge, she's serious. She isn't just thinking about it, either; she's doing almost everything she can to obtain a full picture of the political landscape.
Yesterday, Eckhardt's campaign released results from a February poll claiming that she has 51% name recognition among likely Travis County Democratic Primary voters. That's significantly larger than the name recognition number that the poll found for her potential opposition, Andy Brown, who clocked in at 32%.
The methodological stated in the press release:
Findings are based on an interactive voice response survey conducted by KCZ Consulting on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 among a sample of 634 registered voters likely to vote in the 2014 Democratic Primary for Travis County Judge. The sample holds a +/- 3.7% margin of error.
This is a surprising finding that, if true, bucks some conventional wisdom. Many figured that Brown would lead in this category, as he has now appeared three times on the countywide ballot, and he is constantly in campaign mode simply as the spokesman for the Travis County Democratic Party. Eckhardt, meanwhile, has appeared on the countywide ballot two times, each time for just 1/4 of the county. There are still many reasons for Eckhardt's name ID to be this high, but each explanation would be speculative.
According to Eckhardt consultant Ed Espinosa, "Strong name ID means that if Sarah Eckhardt decides to enter the race, she won't have to spent a ton of money building her profile." That's good news for her in light of Andy Brown's already large financial warchest. Brown's cash advantage will allow him to catch up in name ID by the time March 2014 rolls around and maybe even give himself an ID advantage.
The issuing of this press release leads one to wonder when Eckhardt will more formally announce her electoral intentions. The resign-to-run law prohibits her from announcing a candidacy before December 1, 2013, without resigning her current office representing Precinct 2 on the Commissioners Court. An official announcement now, therefore, would lose her many good policy opportunities on the court, and she'll do go out of her way to avoid saying she's a candidate. But this sure looks like a campaign for county judge. For that matter, I thought Andy Brown was a full candidate, too, though he "hastened to note that he hasn't officially announced yet either." Brown isn't required to give up the Travis County Democratic Chairmanship to run, but he definitely wants to appear as committed to his job as Eckhardt appears committed to hers. Both politicians definitely sound pretty close to two real candidates for County Judge to me, however, and Eckhardt's press release makes clear that the race is already on, if it wasn't already.