Both The Williamson County Sun (not online) and the Austin American Statesman seem to be going out of their way to find excuses to endorse the incumbents in the contested county races.
The WCS went so far as to have a separate section, (Courthouse races – On campaign contributions and learning curves, in the Our View section), to try and justify their endorsements of the incumbents in the Precinct 1 and Precinct 3 county commissioner races. The case they make is, essentially, that a county commission should be comprised of a group of people that have served on the county commission for a long time. Harkening back to the “good ‘ol days” of the previous commissioners court that had its members fined by the Texas Ethics Commission.
They may have had faults, but the “old hands” knew the county landscape really well. They had tons of experience dealing with the minutiae of county business. They were skilled politicians who had made their share of mistakes and learned form them.
They then go on to say that current the current group has “..done some good work and they have made mistakes..[but]..they are learning from their mistakes”. That they have made mistakes isn’t debatable, that they’ve learned from them, on the other hand, is a matter of opinion. The entire court’s penchant for secrecy and their contempt for the public’s input in the decisions the court makes, are two obvious lessons that haven’t been learned.
Essentially the only reason the WCS gives for endorsing Lisa Birkman over Mike Grimes in Precinct 1 is because she is an incumbent, “Birkman provides something essential to the court – continuity”. That’s no reason to keep an incumbent that has made mistakes. Grimes has lived in the county for 37 years and as the WCS says, “has deep knowledge of his district”. Obviously it would be better to be rid of a mistake-prone commissioner sooner, rather than later.
As for the Precinct 3 race between GOP incumbent Valerie Covey and Democrat Greg Windham, the WCS gives her the same treatment, while barely mentioning Windham. Saying she’s made mistakes and learned from them while showing little proof – that the SH 29 loops South as opposed to North – of lessons being learned. And siding with her on the SH 29 expansion the WCS calls it “a good idea that was poorly carried out” – a gross over-simplification at best. Take that Liberty Hill.
The AAS for it’s part shows its ignorance of the “goings-on” in Williamson County over the last several years with its endorsements. In Precinct 1, they claim that Grimes’ opponent won election in 2004 on a reform platform but do not mention a single “reform” she championed as commissioner. The AAS is parroting the WCS reasoning that there are two good candidates, but stick with the incumbent.
They essentially endorse Covey over Windham in Precinct 3 because of the recent WCGOP smear tactics in the race. The “road projects” and “mental health” center are issues that will be continued no matter who is elected in either of these races. Both endorsements are intellectually lazy and ignorant of the facts on the ground in Williamson County.
The WCS did not endorse, as of yet, in the Williamson County Attorney’s race. A non-endorsement of an incumbent can be seen by many as a tacit endorsement of the challenger, Democrat Jaime Lynn. The AAS, on the other hand, did endorse in this race but the endorsement has some serious problems. While the AAS goes out of their way to highlight GOP incumbent Duty’s clashes with the all GOP commissioners court that, in and of itself, is an extremely thin reason to endorse her. Obviously Lynn would be just as vigorous, if not more so, in challenging the court as county attorney. They, like the WCS, point out that Duty has made mistakes, and also say she’s learned from them without providing any evidence she has. Duty has done nothing to enforce the AG’s opinion that County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr. can not longer be the County Budget Officer. She has also done nothing about the possible constitutional issues regarding the new rules the WCCC has put into place.
These endorsements make it seem like both editorial pages had to come up with some reason to endorse the incumbents in these races. Making excuses for the incumbents repeated mistakes and “thinking” they’ve learned form them is not good enough to endorse these candidates. By returning these incumbents to office it would be seen as an ratification of their current direction, and encourage more of the same, or worse. Keeping an all GOP, unaccountable government in Williamson County would be a mistake, and only bring more of the same contempt for the citizens of the county from its elected officials. It’s time for a change in Williamson County and it can’t occur if the current incumbents are returned to office.
Each election is a referendum on the current circumstances we find ourselves in. If voters are satisfied with the current mistake-prone county government, that the local papers “think” have learned from their mistakes, they will vote for the incumbents. If instead they’d prefer responsive elected officials that will allow the public access to its government, follow legal opinions, and bring back integrity to our local government, then it’s time to elect new leaders. Those new leaders are Jaime Lynn, MIke Grimes and Greg Windham.