Austin attorney Eldridge beats longtime judge in 331st District race

6:57 p.m Wednesday, March 7, 2018 Local
Defense attorney Chantal Eldridge defeated longtime 331st District Judge David Crain in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. With no Republican opponent, Eldridge clinched the seat.

Prior to her 2-1 victory in the primary race against longtime 331st District Judge David Crain, defense attorney Chantal Eldridge faced a “David and Goliath”-proportion battle, according to her campaign treasurer, Leslie Boykin.

Crain, who did not respond to requests for comment, has run the 331st District felony court since 2010. His campaign raised more than $40,000, almost 20 times more than Eldridge, and he snagged four times more endorsements, including that of the Austin Bar Association.

Two days into early voting, the American-Statesman published a story detailing a 2006 Austin police investigation into an accusation by a 16-year-old foreign exchange student that she had sex with him while he was staying in her home, which resulted in no charges and which Eldridge has denied. The report was based on police records obtained by the Statesman that indicated that the student’s return to Brazil was one of the reasons the charge was dropped.

And yet, as Boykin pointed out, even within about a week of the accusation surfacing, early voting results released Tuesday night showed Eldridge was still beating Crain with about 68 percent of the vote.

BACKGROUND: Contentious 331st District race pits longtime judge against attorney

That number only rose on Tuesday when she ended Election Night with about 69 percent of the vote. With no Republican opponent, Eldridge had clinched the seat.

Eldridge declined an interview request and referred the Statesman to Boykin, who said voters blamed Crain’s camp for trying to smear her.

“No one believed that about her, and people that didn’t even know her were angry at Judge Crain for playing things that way,” Boykin said. “She’s very glad that the voters of Travis County listened to the issues and not the uncorroborated, unsubstantiated attacks.”

During her campaign, Eldridge, who has been a defense attorney for 28 years, said she would prioritize improving and expanding diversion and rehabilitation programs and reducing the amount of time defendants wait in jail for their cases to be resolved.

Boykin said Eldridge also wants to take over a docket that caters to defendants with mental health needs — something Crain developed years ago as a County Court-at-Law judge. The docket is currently handled by Magistrate Judge Leon Grizzard.

Eldridge ran during an election cycle marked by a record number of women running for Congress and a record number winning their primaries or advancing to runoffs. Boykin said she also thought that energy factored into Eldridge’s success.

“A progressive woman was who we needed in this position, and Travis County voters are ready for it,” Boykin said.