Our take on 2020 election

Proposition A: Parks and Open Space Bonds

This provides for $75 million in water quality protection lands, open space, parks and trails across Hays County. The county has used past park bond money well, and this package is recommended by a citizen committee.

Outside financial analysts say the county can assume the debt without a tax increase, unless there’s a major downturn in land prices, in which case commissioners have indicated they would put projects on hold. You can find more about these bonds and the projects at the county website, or at an advocacy site, HaysParksForPeople.com.

For our money, it’s nice to see folks planning to preserve both water and the character of what made this a place so many people wanted to move to in the first place.

District Judge: A first?

Sherri Tibbe did two successful terms as district attorney, retired to practice law – and now she’s back, seeking to become the first woman ever – that’s right, ever – to serve as a state district judge from Hays County. Tibbe is a smart, qualified, moderate Democrat from the Buda area with lots of support from both Ds and Rs. Junkin is relatively new to the post himself. This judgeship was only created in 2018 by the Legislature, and Junkin, a Wimberley Republican, was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbot; this is his first election, and he has not yet mounted a vigorous campaign.

State Rep: A Comeback (ish)

Two years ago, State Representative Jason Isaac decided not to run for re-election to mount an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for congress, leaving a vacancy in HD 45. In what was largely considered to be a Republican leaning district, Erin Zwiener beat Ken Strange, a popular school board member and EMS director out of Wimberley.

Jason’s wife, Carrie, eeked out the right to oppose Zwiener — and win the seat back for the family — after winning a brutal Republican primary battle against a moderate conservative, former party chair Bud Wymore, alienating a number of Rs along the way. Carrie can be an effective one-on-one campaigner, but hasn’t been known for her command of policy details, exemplified in a recent online debate when she could be seen frequently turning off camera, seemingly asking someone for help. Oops.

Zwiener has been pushing for more tools to regulate rock crushing plants next to residential neighborhoods, and to protect fast-growth counties with their water supplies.

A badge of honor?

There’s an old saying in politics: any publicity is good, so long as you spell the name right. But for candidates for sheriff in Central Texas are putting that to the test. The Williamson County Republican sheriff Robert Chody has just been indicted. Here in Hays, Democratic challenger Alex Villalobos has been subject to a series of articles that are, well, not putting one’s best foot forward.

To be clear, Villalobos faces no charges, denies wrong-doing, and has strong supporters. But there are questions hanging like smoke in the air, after a national nonprofit investigative journalism group teamed with the Texas Tribune to report on his dealings with an ex-con who was peddling COVID testing. At least four local newspapers and various TV stations have followed up, raising new issues. Villalobos has benefitted from – and his life has been complicated by – an active life, involved with his community, which some people say has posed conflicts, as a Kyle council member, the chief aide to County Judge Ruben Becerra (a chief focus of the articles, and under investigation for ethical infractions), and a volunteer deputy to a constable removed from office for ethical breaches.

Supporters of incumbent sheriff Gary Cutler, Republican, have complained that Villalobos is on the “Brady List,” an informal list of current and former law officers who district attorneys will not call to testify because they have ethical problems in their background. Villalobos says his is a minor issue and many Brady problems are overblown; his opponents point to the fact that his brother was convicted and removed from office as a district attorney in the Valley and doubt openly that the problem is minor.

Cutler has his own issues, but they pale next to discussions about Villalobos, who had carefully cultivated an image as a hardworking councilman.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that State Representative Erin Zwiener defeated Jason Isaac in 2018. We also misreported Ken Strange’s name as “Kevin.” 

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