The local items on Austin’s midterm election ballots were hardly the nail-biters that many state and national races became. Nevertheless, the results sent some clear messages about local leadership, growth, and change (as well as some more mixed messages in the former of runoffs). Result for council races and propositions are below.
Incumbent Mayor Steve Adler defeated challenger Laura Morrison (as well as five other rivals who garnered a few votes), with a decisive 59 percent of the vote to Morrison’s 19 percent, according to KUT (the Austin Monitor put Adler’s lead at 61 percent). In his victory speech, the mayor characterized his big win as a mandate that the city wants to continue to “look forward. .... An overwhelming voice that says don’t listen to the voices of the status quo, the do-nothing voices, that get us lost in process, voices that don’t let us move forward at the scale of the size of the challenges that we have.” Adler, first elected in 2014, was presumably referring at least in part to Morrisson, who has questioned the process for CodeNEXT, the failed effort to overhaul city development code, and questioned the council’s transparency on such proposed projects as a proposed Major League Soccer stadium.
Community organizer Mariana Salazar, with 26 percent of the vote, and East Austin entrepreneur Natasha Harper-Madison, with 25 percent of the vote, will face each other in December runoff election.
Several ran 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. Vincent Harding, a lawyer and former chair of both Travis County Democratic Party chair and the city’s board of adjustment, was considered an early frontrunner and had received Houston’s endorsement, but came in third in the election.
Incumbent Sabino “Pio” Renteria will face his sister, Susana Almanza, in December’s 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.
Incumbent Ann Kitchen ran unopposed—and won.
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 a 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.
Incumbent Kathie Tovo was reelected with almost 53 percent of the votes in her district. District 9. Tovo had three challengers, the closest of whom is transportation engineer and a committed urbanist Danielle Skidmore, who received less than 32 percent of the vote.
Austin voters overwhelmingly approved seven tax-supported, general obligation bond proposals totaling a historic $925 million. Propositions A-G, which will mean a 2-percent property tax rate increase for the next 30 years, passed handily, with votes in favor ranging from the 70- to 84-percent range.
Propositions H and I, which clarify the process from removing a Planning Commissioner and make non-substantive grammatical changes to the city charter, respectively, also passed by significant favorable margins.
Propositions J and K, the two most debated props this time around were both petition-led and both placed on the ballot after the city was sued to do so.
Prop J would have required a waiting period and a citywide vote totaling up to three years before any comprehensive land development code revisions could take effect. It was voted down by 52 percent of the votes. Prop K proposed a “fiscal efficiency” audit for the city, which already has an internal audit; 58 percent of votes went against it.