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  • Writer's pictureNorth Shore Democrats of Travis County

Is the North Shore purpling? Maybe, says May 4 election

Editor’s note: Thanks to Anne Ochoa, Jack Alford, and Jim Gallagher for excavating and analyzing the data, and for contributing content to this blog

By Mike Killalea, NSD president

Is the North Shore turning purple? The results of the May 4 election for the Travis County Appraisal District Board of Directors sure point in that direction.

Two of the three Democrats in the race edged out their Republican opponents, and in the third race, the Democrat was less than 3 percentage points behind.

Countywide, though, the three Democrats, Jett Hanna, Shenghao “Daniel” Wang, and Dick Lavine trounced the Republicans. Hanna and Wang outpolled the Republicans by more than two to one, while Lavine’s margin was nearly three to one. (See reference 1 for information on Hanna, Wang, and Lavine.)

Candidate results locally

Locally, the elections were closer. Hanna received 389 votes from voters in the five North Shore precincts, while his opponent received 408, resulting in a narrow (51.2%-48.8%) win for Hanna’s opponent — only 2.4% separation.

(Figure 1 shows voting totals for each candidate in each of the North Shore’s five precincts. Figure 2 shows voting totals by North Shore precinct.)

Wang narrowly won his three-way race, which included a Libertarian spoiler. The vote counts for Wang’s race are 359-75-356 (45.7%-9.5%-45.1%) for Wang, Libertarian, and Republican. Wang won locally by 0.6%.

Finally, Dick Lavine won locally by close to 4% — 417 (51.9%) for Lavine vs 386 (48.1%) for his opponent.

While the North Shore’s apparent purple tint is encouraging, let’s temper our expectations. Recognize that in this low-turnout election, it’s likely that largely it was the most committed voters who participated. Still, can blue be far away?

North Shore turnout

Expectations were that this race would draw only 3%-5% of registered voters. For the most part, North Shore voters were at the high end, and voters in Precinct 396 over-achieved, with turnout rates of 5.47%, 5.34%, and a whopping 6.09% for Places 1, 2, and 3, respectively.

Even the precincts with the lowest turnout locally were well within expectations. (This was Precinct 395, which boasted 4.30% turnout for both Place 2 and Place 3. 4.33% of Precinct 395 voters voted for Place 1.)

Overall, North Shore participation ranged from 4.76% to 4.84%, depending on the race.

However, North Shore turnout compares unfavorably with overall voting in the county, which boasted a 6.25% turnout. (2)

We Democrats clearly have work to do on the North Shore. Still, without the GOTV efforts our club undertook, our turnout could well have been lower.

Why this election?

While this was officially a nonpartisan election, the candidates were endorsed by  political parties. Previously, all TCAD BOD members were appointed by the taxing entities. This election is new.

When voters approved $12.7 billion in new property tax cuts last year, they also approved the new elections for many appraisal district boards. During the second Legislative session of 2024, Sen Paul Bettencourt of Houston introduced a bill authorizing the election of three Directors to the Appraisal District BOD’s for all Texas counties with populations exceeding 75,000, which applies to 50 of the 254 Texas counties. (3)

Incidentally, Bettencourt is the President and CEO of a tax consulting company in Houston whose business is contesting property tax values for its customers. (4,5)

Contested elections took place in only 20 counties. In 30 of the 50 counties, appraisal board candidates either didn’t draw challengers or the elections were canceled because no one filed for the positions. In instances where no one filed for an elected spot, the remaining board members can appoint people to those seats. (3)

Many Texans are upset by what they perceive as high property taxes, despite the generous increase in homestead exemptions. Perceptions notwithstanding, though, an analysis by the Texas Tribune of 50 homeowners showed that lower taxes were paid in 2023 than in 2018. (6)

And appraisals are only part of the tax-bill puzzle. Local governments like cities, counties and school districts set tax rates that determine how much will be collected from property owners.

“There is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the system works,” said Brent South, chief appraiser at the Hunt County Appraisal District. “I think a lot of property owners don't understand that there's a difference between the appraisal district and the taxing units.” (3)

The Republicans are on a statewide mission to starve public services by slashing funding to the bone, then piously claim that government doesn’t work. Travis County showed wisdom in rejecting Republican extremism and fear mongering on May 4. Never let the enemies of freedom seize the levers of power.


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May 09
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This is a milestone for the North Shore, where Republicans have historically out numbered Democrats 2 to 1.

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