On Sunday evening, the executive committee of the Travis County Democratic Party selected Austin-based attorney and Beto O’Rourke advisor Andy Brown to replace newly sworn in state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt as Democratic nominee for Travis County judge, the top executive position for the county that is home to the Texas capital.
While Travis County Republicans are expected to field a candidate for the November ballot to face Brown, the general election is little more than a formality in the overwhelmingly blue county, making it highly likely that Brown will become the next county judge.
The unusual election was necessitated by the resignation of Eckhardt, who stepped down in order to seek the 14th Senate District seat that was vacated by Kirk Watson’s retirement. Eckhardt’s decision to seek the state senate seat set off a domino effect that saw former Travis County Democratic Party chair Dyana Limon-Mercado resign from that post in order to run for county judge.
Ultimately, Brown prevailed over Limon-Mercado and Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion by capturing 55 percent of the vote. The CEC meeting was conducted entirely virtually, and new TCDP chair Katie Naranjo worked to extend the initial 30 minute voting period to ensure every precinct chair had time to cast their ballot.
The victory was a long time coming for Brown and his supporters. In 2013, Brown himself stepped down as TCDP chair to seek the county judge’s office and enjoyed the support of many prominent Travis County political luminaries like Rep. Lloyd Doggett (to whom Brown once served as campaign manager) and then Sen. Kirk Watson.
Eckhardt would eventually join that 2014 race and edge out Brown in the Democratic primary, but Brown remained dedicated to progressive causes in the years that passed. One major accomplishment was his work in establishing the Sobering Center in Austin, which was a central point of his 2014 platform.
More recently, and with somewhat more fanfare, Brown joined his longtime friend Beto O’Rourke as finance director for his powerhouse 2018 U.S. Senate run, helping O’Rourke rake in more than $80 million dollars and nearly topple Ted Cruz. Brown would go on to serve as a senior advisor to O’Rourke’s presidential bid while also devoting time to his law practice in 2019.
Brown has spent the last several months heavily involved with O’Rourke’s Powered by the People, advising the organization on fundraising and how to replicate the field operation O’Rourke nearly rose to success in 2018. O’Rourke endorsed Brown in this race and participated in virtual town halls to help boost Brown.
After the result was announced, Brown was given a few minutes to address the precinct chairs, who he thanked profusely for their willingness to engage in what ended up being a drawn out process due to COVID-19. He also thanked his mother, who sent a handwritten note to precinct chairs that many credited with securing their vote.
The bonhomie would quickly fade when the party shifted to close out the meeting. One precinct chair, Jen Ramos, sought and was denied a point of personal privilege after the results were announced, seeking an opportunity to speak out against the lack of diversity in the electorate that made this decision. After some parliamentary confusion, Ramos decided to withdraw her motion after being heckled by older precinct chairs and posted the text of her point of privilege on Medium.
After the vote, Texas Signal reached out to four precinct chairs from different parts of the county about what swayed the unusual election. At least one of the sources voted for each candidate, and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
While all of the precinct chairs felt that the county would have been better served with a proper primary for the position, they all agreed that Brown set himself apart from the pack by sending several detailed proposals to precinct chairs and taking deep dives into his positions in subsequent phone calls and Zooms with the precinct chairs.
The general election will be held on November 3rd. Texas Signal will be interviewing Brown later today — stay tuned for more.