You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Buckingham, Leeder vie for open Hill Country state Senate seat

The race to replace retiring 20-year state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, will pit Republican Dawn Buckingham against Democrat Virginia “Jennie Lou” Leeder to represent a district that has traditionally been a GOP stronghold.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins Oct. 24.

Leeder, chairwoman of Llano County’s Democratic Party from 2007-15, is the first Democrat since 1996 to seek election to Senate District 24, which encompasses 17 counties that stretch from the Hill Country to Abilene, including a slice of western Travis County.

A seventh-generation Texan and a Llano resident, Leeder emphasizes her rural roots with a focus on better funding for education, particularly for higher teacher salaries, as well as improving hospital access and the roads and bridges in the district.

“I’m from rural Texas, and I feel like I can relate to the voters. I think it’s important to understand their pain and what they are going through,” she said. “They want a senator who understands life in rural Texas.”

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

Buckingham, a Lakeway eye surgeon who served on the Lake Travis school board for a year before resigning to run for the Senate, describes herself as a Christian, liberty-minded candidate prepared for tough choices when the Legislature crafts a two-year budget with the state’s oil and gas industry hurting.

“I think in a tight budget year, you’re going to have to look for opportunities” to cut taxes, spending and unnecessary regulations, Buckingham said. “We talk about decreasing the footprint of government. It needs to be smaller and less intrusive into our daily lives — and it will cost us less.”

She supports beefing up security along the border with Mexico and wants to fight “sanctuary city” policies that discourage police and jail personnel from enforcing immigration laws.

“Border security, both for our economic viability and the safety of our communities, truly is our No. 1 issue,” said Buckingham, 48.

The Republican also favors reducing the power of state bureaucrats and unions in local schools and said she would vote for “school choice,” which would let students attend private schools with public education money.

“All of our kids need to have the opportunity to go to a good school, not just the wealthy kids,” Buckingham said.

Leeder, who taught agriculture and physical education for 11 years and is now a swim coach, wants to improve education by overhauling the school finance system to ensure that the state better meets its financial obligations to students. Llano, like many other school districts, is having trouble making ends meet under the current “Robin Hood” system that siphons money from property-rich districts for distribution to property-poorer ones, she said.

“We spend more per day to house an inmate than we do on a student,” said Leeder, 50.

Leeder wants to champion policies that would bring more hospitals and trauma treatment centers to the district. “There are places in the 17 counties where people are driving over 50 miles to get good health care, and that is just not acceptable,” she said.

The Democrat also is concerned by dangerous roads — some without a shoulder, others with unrepaired potholes — in the district, and she wants to put bridges on a tighter inspection schedule.

Leeder, however, is far behind in fundraising. In a campaign finance report filed 30 days before the election, the Democrat had $9,377 in the bank after raising $11,620 over the previous three months. Buckingham, in contrast, had $154,037 on hand after raising $195,484 in the same period.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Teenagers accused of burglaries in Round Rock, Florence
Teenagers accused of burglaries in Round Rock, Florence

Police have accused four men, including two they interviewed at Florence High School, of being involved in a burglary at a Florence business, according to arrest affidavits. Three of them were also accused of being involved in a burglary at a Round Rock pawnshop, the affidavits said. Florence residents Miguel Vences, 17 , his brother Juan Vences, 19...
Cedar Park gold coin company owner accused of stealing from client
Cedar Park gold coin company owner accused of stealing from client

A Cedar Park man who owns a gold coin company has been accused of stealing from one of his clients, according to an arrest affidavit. Donald McBride, 47, was charged with theft, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail. McBride is the owner of David Maxwell Gold Advisors LLC, the affidavit said. One of his customers bought 500 Silver...
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Speaker Joe Straus said the House will budge no further on transgender bathroom legislation and that the Senate can take the measure the House passed Sunday, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not feel went far enough, or leave it. “The House approved language last Sunday night that required schools to make private accommodations for students who...
Police seeing uptick of phone scam reports in South Austin
Police seeing uptick of phone scam reports in South Austin

An increasing number of people in South Austin are falling victim to a phone scam, in which the caller pretends to be a family member in desperate need of money to bail them out of jail, Austin police said. In some instances, the scammer tells the person receiving the call that his or her voice sounds different because they have a cold. In other...
Legislature keeps cuts to program for poor kids with disabilities
Legislature keeps cuts to program for poor kids with disabilities

Over Democratic objections and against Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ wishes, the Legislature this year won’t undo severe cuts adopted in 2015 to a program that serves low-income children with disabilities. The House on Friday voted 115-21 to go along with a Senate budget plan that declines to alter the dramatic reductions — totaling...
More Stories