LOCAL ELECTIONS

Mayor-backed slate wins in Leander; Duffy, Jefts hold off challengers in Cedar Park

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Editor's note: This story is an update from the previous report on the results of local city council races, including comments from several of the candidates involved in the race. The story has been further updated to include comments from Kathryn Pantalion-Parker, received after initial publication.

Unofficial election results show a slate of candidates backed by Mayor Troy Hill won election to the city council in Leander, while two of the three incumbents supported by Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale appear to have successfully held off challengers.

Cedar Park Place 5 Council Member Heather Jefts held a 1-vote margin over challenger Rodney T. Robison headed into a review of provisional ballots scheduled for Friday. 

In Leander, Kathryn Pantalion-Parker beat rival Laura Lantrip for the Place 1 seat vacated by Andrea Navarrette, who decided not to run for re-election. Pantalion-Parker garnered 65.98% of the vote, with 1,216 votes to Lantrip's 627.

In Leander's Place 3 race, Jason Shaw beat Becki Ross by a similar margin, winning 67.62% of the vote for the seat vacated by Shanan Shepherd, who also decided not to run for re-election this year. Shaw had 1,247 votes to Ross' 597.

The only incumbent running for re-election in Leander, Jeff Seiler, lost his Place 5 seat to challenger Chris Czernek, who tallied 64.68% of the vote. Czernek had 1,194 votes to Seiler's 652.

In Cedar Park, a slate of incumbents supported by Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale had slightly less success, with incumbent Stephen Thomas losing his Place 1 seat to challenger Tim Kelly. Kelly tallied 52.76% of the vote, with 2,910 ballots in his favor. Thomas had 2,606 votes. 

Place 3 incumbent Anne Duffy held off Hulyne Christopher by 184 votes, earning 51.48% of the vote with a total 2,593 ballots in her favor in the Place 3 race.

In Place 5, Jefts tallied 50.01% of the vote between early voting and Election Day totals, edging out Robinson by just 1 vote — 2,871 to 2,870. 

Williamson County elections officials said provisional ballots must be reviewed in order to determine whether the vote totals will change. That decision is expected some time on Friday. 

Jefts said she believes her supporters stuck with her because they have seen the amount of work she has done on the Council, pushing for more public meetings and “bringing a high level of accessibility” as a council member.

“I’m very proud of how we stayed above board and ran on an issues- and facts-based campaign,” Jefts said.

Jefts said she wholeheartedly supports counting all of the outstanding provisional, military and timely mail ballots. She said she believes her results so far in the election show the additional ballots will go in her favor.

“It’s a great thing that we make sure that every vote is counted and accounted for,” Jefts said. 

Robinson said he was disappointed with the initial results of the election, but said he remains hopeful the outstanding ballots will ultimately sway the election in his favor.

"We ran a hard campaign. We hit it from all angles — from block walking to mailers to phone calls — and we expected it to be close. I just didn't think it would be a difference of just one vote," Robinson said.

Robinson said he is waiting until the final election results are compiled tomorrow before making any additional about the campaign, such as requesting a recount of the ballots.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see,” Robinson said.

Andy Hogue, a spokesperson for the Tim Kelly campaign, said they were very excited by the victory.

"We found what resounds with voters — that we were able to laugh with people, cry with people and listen to their problems," Hogue said. "We wanted voters to know they were really being listened to by a potential council member. They told their friends about how Tim Kelly listened and that's how he turned one vote into three or four votes."

Hogue said Kelly is excited to be able to start his term by appointing qualified individuals to the various city boards. He said Kelly is also very interested in pushing for action on term limits early in his term.

Kelly will dedicate his efforts in the short term to supporting Robinson as the final votes are tallied, Hogue said.

Leander businessman Andy Pitts gained notoriety prior to the election by stating he was aiming to gain control of enough seats on the Leander City Council to support the goals of Mayor Troy Hill, including reducing regulations on local developers.

Pitts, through his personal contributions and donations made through the Texas Stronger PAC, has dumped more than $41,000 into local elections since 2018. In addition to personally spending several thousand dollars in support of the challengers in Cedar Park, Pitts and Texas Stronger dumped more than $15,000 into the campaigns of the victorious Leander candidates — Czernek, Shaw and Pantalion-Parker.

When interviewed following the election, Pitts said he feels his support for the three winning candidates helped them get their campaigns off the ground initially, but they ultimately won their races by successfully getting their message of change out to the voters. 

Pitts said he believes this election was a carry-over from the last election because people still have a strong desire for change at City Hall.

“The majority of people have bought into the vision Troy Hill has for the community,” Pitts said. “They want to give him the resources he needs to fulfil that vision.”

When asked about the election results, newly-elected Leander Place 1 Council Member Pantalion-Parker said, "I am delighted with the outcome and that the majority of voters responded to positive messaging."

When asked about her plans going forward as a first-time Councilor, Pantalion-Parker said she expects to do a lot of catching up on the Council over the next few months and hopes to accomplish a lot over the next three years.

"I am eager to learn more about each process and urge more residents to get involved in the community to better understand how our city works," Pantalion-Parker said. "Leander is truly a great place and it will only get better because of the good people who live here now and in the future. I hope that more residents will partner with us by serving in the community to learn more and be a positive influence."

Despite the resounding victories in Leander, Pitts-backed candidates were less successful in Cedar Park, a fact he attributed to the new residents moving into the city. He said Cedar Park is much more “blue” than Leander, making a tougher fight in his effort to “keep Cedar Park conservative” into the future.

Repeated calls to the Jason Shaw, Chris Czernek and Leander Mayor Troy Hill over several days were not returned for this story.

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