Chronicle Endorsements for Austin City Council Run-Off Election

Election day: Tuesday, December 13
In-person early voting: Thursday, December 1, through Friday, December 9
Deadline to turn in your completed ballot: December 13, postmarked; December 14, received
For more information, including polling locations, visit the Travis County Clerk’s website.

Mayor: Celia Israel
Council District 3: José Velásquez
Council District 5: Ryan Alter
Council District 9: Linda Guerrero

You may notice that none of these endorsements have changed from our general election endorsements. But that’s not because we didn’t reconsider them.

In the mayor’s race, that reconsideration was internal and brief; nothing about how the Nov. 8 election turned out, nor about the campaign that’s unfolded since, made us rethink our support for Israel and for the reasons we laid out before. When we met with the candidates back in October, we invited her and Kirk Watson (and Jennifer Virden, who did not respond) in and had time to get answers from each to most of the questions that were going to steer our endorsement. That wasn’t true for the candidates in the three district run-offs, each for an open seat, who crowded into our conference room with all four, or five, or six of their fellow candidates. So we invited the run-off finishers back for a more leisurely conversation. Here’s what we learned.

District 3: José Velásquez.
Velásquez and Daniela Silva clearly not only agree with each other but like each other, so does it matter which one wins? We think Velásquez has more of the kind of experience that will serve a council member in good stead, and more credibility with the local powers on the ground in the heart of Tejano East Austin who have genuine power in a district where so many people don’t vote unless they’re specifically asked to. But Silva probably has more credibility with more of the southside portion of D3, which is largely East Riverside and Oltorf west to St. Ed’s – lots of young people, lots of diversity, lots of renters. She’s also your go-to pick if you’re looking for a young millennial activist to fill the Greg Casar slot, rather than providing Chito Vela with a natural ally.

District 5: Ryan Alter.
We knew Silva was good from the first round and shouted her out in our earlier endorsement, but we feel like we slept on Stephanie Bazan. (Despite some misleading literature from her campaign, we did not endorse her before.) Since she and Ryan Alter also largely agree on goals, we asked them about change and influence – how do you intend to get more housing and child care and climate action or whichever priorities you want to champion? Alter’s made much of his detailed and prescriptive housing plan, which Bazan has subtly turned negative on him, positioning herself as a peer who’ll lead through relationships rather than as an expert. Yet Alter also has years of experience as Kirk Watson’s aide in the Lege, so he knows how to negotiate and play hardball, which we generally like to hear.

District 9: Linda Guerrero.
This is where some of you may have wanted us to make a change, but we’ve now met twice with Zohaib Qadri and still aren’t convinced. As a self-described urbanist, he represents a real change in direction after eight years of Kathie Tovo, and Linda Guerrero entered this race to provide a more status-quo alternative. Of the four urbanists in the first round, Qadri seemed to us to be the least knowledgeable and engaged with actual land use politics, let alone the broader spectrum of City Hall business. We backed Ben Leffler (who has endorsed Qadri) because we felt he’d be the best all-around council member of the original eight. Guerrero may be the better all-around option of these two. We know Zo is sincere and has the right values, but those are not a substitute for actual experience. We also took notice when Guerrero told us she’s not Tovo’s clone and about her pretty good ideas for soft density that she thinks are common sense, but which some D9 homeowners clearly don’t like.

Read the Austin Chronicle‘s coverage of the campaign trail at our Elections hub.

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