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Vote in Austin runoffs: Tuesday is Election Day

Three council seats and more up for grabs

Austin City Hall
AFP/Getty Images

This article was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated.

While the excitement and frenzy of the country’s midterm elections has let up, if only slightly (perhaps not at all in the case of Beto fever), there are three Austin City Council races, one ACC trustee contest, and an at-large AISD trustee battle in which the dust hasn’t settled.

Election Day for the races is Tuesday, Dec. 11—that’s your last chance to vote in these races.

Austin City Council seats for Districts 1, 3, and 8 are up for a runoff vote, and only voters registered in those districts may vote for their preferred candidate. The AISD runoff is for the at-large Place 9 trustee position, and the ACC District trustee vote will cover District 8, which covers the city of Austin as well as Leander, Manor, Del Valle, Round Rock, Elgin, and Hays County.

While the local items on Austin’s midterm ballots were hardly the nail-biters that many state and national races became, the results sent some clear messages about local leadership, growth, and change. The outcome of the three remaining races will be critical in clarifying which directions Austin wants to move in as it continues to grow.

Below is information on the candidates in the three races; you can find information on polling locations and hours on the Travis County and Hays County election websites.

Austin City Council

District 1

Community organizer Mariana Salazar eked out a small victory in the midterms, with 26 percent of the vote, and East Austin entrepreneur Natasha Harper-Madison garnered 25 percent.

The candidates are running for the seat being vacated by Ora Houston, the longtime East Austin advocate and first District 1 representative to serve when the council moved to a single-member-district model. District 1 is historically a black neighborhood and has faced issues of displacement and unaffordability for years. Both candidates look to address affordability seriously but from different point of view. Harper-Madison, an East Austin native and president of the East 12th Street Merchants Association, wants to mend some of the ways the area and its population have been left out of the city’s process and prosperity. Salazar, who moved to Austin from Venezuela as a teenager, wants to emphasize and address immigration issues in the conversation about affordability and access to housing and services.

District 3

Incumbent Sabino “Pio” Renteria will face his sister, Susana Almanza, in the runoffs. Renteria got 47 percent of the vote, less than the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff, while Almanza received 21 percent.

Renteria and Almanza are no strangers to competition with each other; Longtime activist and PODER director Almanza ran against Renteria for the seat in 2014, the first local election after Austin adopted a single-member districts.

Renteria has been active in addressing affordable housing issues in his district and has worked to get several projects off the ground without exactly being a bulwark against displacement. Almanza, has for decades been rigorous and consistent in her focus on neighborhood and district advocacy, with an emphasis on environmental activism and addressing gentrification.

District 8

Paige Ellis received 30 percent of the votes in her bid to replace current council member Ellen Troxclair, who chose not to run again. Candidate Frank Ward, with close to 25 percent of the votes, will face Ellis in the runoff.

Environmental marketing expert Ellis has previously volunteered for the Texas Book Festival and Keep Austin Beautiful as well as serving as a state convention delegate for the Texas Democratic Party. Ward, who is on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, would likely take Libertarian-leaning positions (meaning anti-tax and anti-regulation) on most issues, as did Troxclair, who endorsed him.

Considering that District 8 encompasses parts of Circle C, Oak Hill, and almost all of the Barton Springs zone that contributes to the Edwards Aquifer, the district’s choice of candidate could be an interesting mini-referendum on environmental and development issues.

ACC trustee position, Place 8

Attorney and community organizer Stephanie Gharakhanian, most recently with with the Workers Defense Project, received 49 percent of the vote. She will compete against Sarah Mills, who garnered 34 percent and is director of government relations and regulatory affairs for the Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice and a former chairwoman of the nonprofit Austin Tenants Council.

AISD at-large position, Place 9

Carmen Tilton, a senior executive policy adviser for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission with several years’s experience as a legislative policy analyst, received 40 percent of the vote. Runoff opponent Arati Singh received 36 percent and is an educational program designer and evaluator with experience as a bilingual school teacher in the Rio Grande Valley.