The Austin Chronicle endorses Sarah Eckhardt for Travis County Judge! From their editorial:
Eckhardt’s greatest strength is that she has been knee-deep in county work for many years, first as an assistant county attorney, and then for six years as Pct. 2 Commissioner, working on all kinds of initiatives to improve quality of life and making the county more “efficient, just, healthy, mobile, and green,” as her campaign material states. She has also clearly articulated progressive goals for the whole region on matters like transportation and the environment, and she’s done good spadework on CAMPO, building regional partnerships where a great deal of time and energy must be spent to make very slow progress.
An endorsement of Eckhardt is not to disparage her opponent, Andy Brown. There are solid reasons why Brown has garnered the lion’s share of endorsements from Democratic public officials and local political organizations. He has a long history in the local party, beginning as a fieldworker in Travis County campaigns stretching back to Ann Richards (and notably in 2004 as Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s campaign manager). As chair of the county Democratic Party, he helped revitalize a placid operation, and was instrumental in increasing fundraising and turnout, especially in the county’s eastern precincts. That success has carried over to his ability to amass a sizable war chest and to run a smooth campaign with an impressive field operation. His broad support, including visible minority support (his fluency in Spanish is a bonus) reflects that he’s clearly able to win friends and influence people.
Nevertheless, there are hard questions raised about both Brown’s experience and his insider managerial style. He hasn’t worked at the county itself, and he would take time to understand and use the available levers of action, or evoke cooperation from county staff (and county attorneys) long used to doing things in a fairly unimaginative way. On that score, a commissioner’s seat would have been a better place for Brown to learn the ropes before making a run for county judge. Our sense is that he’s been coming up to speed on current policy issues as the campaign progresses.
The main criticism we’ve heard against Eckhardt is that she would rather be right on principle than successful in practice, making it difficult to build consensus either among her constituents or on the court. But that’s not an entirely true or fair representation. During her tenure on the court she helped secure a majority vote, if not unanimous support, on several seismic changes in county policy, including stricter groundwater regulations, a more inclusive economic development policy, and a means of improving the county’s lackluster record of awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses. Should she become our next county judge, Eckhardt would do well to temper her leadership style. At the same time, we recognize and applaud Eckhardt’s abilities as a skilled, tough negotiator who would work in the best interest of the entire county. We believe the current court is often too easily swayed by monied interests, and voters would be wise to elect a county judge with a backbone.