Although Allen Vaught is still locked in a tight contest with Republican challenger Bill Keffer -- it's Vaught by 51 percent to 46 percent with 43 of 55 precincts reporting -- the Democratic state representative doesn't seem too nervous as the results trickle in. I swear his campaign must host the greatest poker matches in the city: Neither Vaught nor anybody working for him seem too concerned that he holds only a slight lead -- even as Barack Obama as winning Dallas County by more than 100,000 votes with 581 of 708 precincts reporting. If they're sweating, agonizing and trying not to keel over, they're all doing a good job of hiding it.
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In an interview with Unfair Park outside the Lakewood Tavern, as the neon sign flickers in his eyes, Vaught says that when he scored an upset victory over Keffer in 2006, he was behind by five points in early voting. When the final votes were counted, he won by five. He tells me that this time he expects to break even off the general election votes and preserve his five- to six-point triumph. Even if Vaught appears assured of going back to Austin, he's not ready to extend the olive branch to his two-time nemesis excoriating him for that dirty flier.
"Acts of desperation," he says of the Keffer last minute mail-out, which seemed like it was printed in 1992. "We'll see if the smear tactics work."
Unlike 2006, when Keffer ran a campaign that was lazier than an ABC sitcom, this time around he has "worked his ass off," in the words of one Republican. It's showing so far -- who would have thought we couldn't have called this race by now? -- but it looks like Keffer will fall just short of reclaiming a seat he once viewed as his birthright. If so, it's not like he can hold his head up high in defeat.
His was a rather toxic campaign -- at one point he claimed that Vaught was anti-autism, seriously. Also, at times, the pro-voucher Republican seemed out of touch with a district that devoutly supports its neighborhood schools. Still, Keffer's showing tonight means that Vaught won't be able to coast to a re-election anytime soon. This is not a safe district for him, as tonight shows. --Matt Pulle