By County News Today staff
Andy Brauninger and Keith Olson were the top vote-getters in Tuesday’s election for Huntsville’s mayor and now must face each other in a December run-off.
With all of the city’s precinct boxes counted, Brauninger, a retired industry executive and current Huntsville City Council member, won 34.92 percent of the vote to council member Olson’s 30.49 percent. A candidate would have to have 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.
Former City Council member and Sam Houston State University professor Wayne Barrett got 24.17 percent of the vote. John Kerr Smither, Huntsville businessman and artist, earned 10.42 percent.
The run-off likely will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5, or Dec. 12, according to the county’s chief election official Diana McRae. A date will be determined after council canvasses the vote.
Smither ran on a platform of downtown preservation and growth, with a vision for relocating the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons to land inside the county with the goal of putting these central city sites back on the tax rolls and available for private use and commercial development.
Brauninger and Barrett said they were in favor of honest, open government, planned economic development and quality city services at the lowest tax rate possible. Barrett also said he might support a more restrictive Type 4A sales tax — which the City Council rejected — if the city came up with a viable plan for the diverted funds that would ensure they were used for the creation of primary jobs.
Olson promised voters he would push for the use of city resources to attract new economic development. Olson was the only one of the four candidates who supported a measure on the ballot to create a Type 4B sales tax economic development corporation, which would divert about $625,000 from the city’s general fund for use in bringing new industry and retail to the city and supporting new “quality of life” projects such as new roads, sports complexes, parks and infrastructure.
Voters on Tuesday said no to 4B. The measure lost by 53.58 percent of the vote.
Like Smither, Brauninger and Barrett opposed the 4B sales tax measure. Both said that though they were in favor of economic development, neither thought the 4B was a good option since the city can already use general funds for economic development and the 4B threatened to raise property taxes or force cuts in city services. Barrett also said he was concerned the city didn’t unveil any plan for how 4B funds would be used before a majority voted to include the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.