Burnt Orange Report Endorsements in City of Austin District Races

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For the past three years, our staff has voiced strenuous support for moving the City of Austin elections to November — a shift that promises to increase voter participation and hopefully enables a more representative electorate to choose our municipal leaders. That move, passed by the voters in 2012 along with the shift to a district-based system, has resulted in an historic election cycle with over 78 candidates putting their names on the ballot.

Here at Burnt Orange Report we sent a questionnaire to all candidates and reviewed the answers carefully in choosing whom to endorse in the ten district races. On the whole, we’re glad that every race presented at least one compelling option; in some of these contests our staff was split between two or three good choices.

Overall, our endorsements reflect support for candidates that have a common-sense approach to expanding transportation options and providing more housing, particularly for renters. Between skyrocketing rents and heavy educational costs and student loan burdens, young Austinites are getting squeezed out of this city. As progressives, we think Austin must offer legitimate opportunities for people of all ages and income levels to find a home and get around our city. As a result, we have chosen to support candidates who reflect that vision.

Below is a list of our endorsed candidates for Districts 1 through 10.

District 1: DeWayne Lofton
District 2: Delia Garza
District 3: Sabino “Pio” Renteria
District 4: Greg Casar
District 5: Ann Kitchen
District 6: Matt Stillwell
District 7: Jeb Boyt
District 8: Ed Scruggs
District 9: Chris Riley
District 10: Mandy Dealey

Click here for our endorsement in the Mayor’s race.

Early Voting: October 20-31 | Election Day: Tuesday, November 4
Photo ID is required to vote. Click here for information.



District 1: DeWayne Lofton

Our staff was split between Lofton and Ora Houston, but in the end Lofton’s approach to housing and transportation earned our support. Lofton is an advocate for more rental housing in all parts of Austin. The current gentrification of East Austin is fueled in part by a lack of adequate supply across the entire city, which pushes potential home-buyers further east, displacing long-time residents.

In this race, both Houston and Lofton are strong candidates, and we wish Lofton had started campaigning with vigor earlier in the race to make this more of a competitive contest. On the whole, however, the majority of our staff simply felt that Lofton was more in touch with our priorities, and he earns our support.


District 2: Delia Garza

Of all of the candidates running, perhaps none embody the promise of the new 10-1 system more than Garza. A former City of Austin firefighter, she went on to graduate law school, and until recently worked in child support enforcement at the Attorney General’s office while becoming even more involved in civic activities. An appointee to the charter revision committee, she helped shepherd in this new era of geographic representation.

Now she is the obvious front-runner in the race for District 2, an area that is in dire need of close attention and one that will benefit from a well-prepared, consensus choice who will be particularly capable of working effectively with the rest of the new council.

A born public servant, Garza is also already a role model to young Hispanic girls in Austin, and as the first council member from the new District 2 will be an even bolder and brighter example of what determination can accomplish when progressive government offers everyone an equal chance to succeed. We are confident that she will work hard to provide the next generation of young residents in her district with the opportunity they need to make their way in life, and we look forward to watching her succeed in office.

We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse Delia Garza for District 2 and encourage voters to support her in this election.


District 3: Sabino “Pio” Renteria

This race offers twelve candidates and no clear favorite. Endorsements have been split across many of the individuals who have entered the race. Here at Burnt Orange Report, we advocate a vote for Sabino “Pio” Renteria owing to his longtime progressive advocacy in the district.

Our staff has also been impressed by Eric Rangel, who distinguished himself in this second run for office. However, on the balance Renteria maximizes the need for a candidate with deep roots in the East Austin and Hispanic communities while possessing a common-sense, populist approach to governance. A die-hard Democratic activist, Pio and his wife Lori have been organizing in their community for decades, and he has earned the respect of a broad range of civic leaders as a result of his tireless advocacy.

We believe Renteria offers the best choice for District 3 voters who want a progressive, grassroots-minded activist who can also work capably with other members of the council.


District 4: Greg Casar

Casar has worn holes in the soles of his signature boots knocking doors and talking to voters, something that comes naturally for this veteran community organizer. At a time when affordability has become an obligatory talking point of most council candidates, Casar’s record at Austin’s Workers’ Defense Project proves he is a true champion of working class families, and we have no doubt he will continue that work from the dais. 


Much like The Austin Chronicle — which endorsed Casar — we are also impressed by two other candidates, Katrina Daniel and Sharon Mays. However, we remain baffled by the Austin American-Statesman’s choice of Dr. Laura Pressley, whose initial run for office in 2012 was based on opposition to fluoride in the water and airport scanners, and who maintains a cozy relationship with the conspiracy-minded InfoWars.com.

District 4 has tremendous needs in terms of public safety, affordable housing, and increased transportation options, and they need a capable advocate on our City Council. Greg may be young and ambitious, but his energy and optimism about the future of Austin is what this fast-changing North Central District needs. The area is home to a growing immigrant population and other underrepresented groups that contribute greatly to the character of our city, who yet remain distinctly disengaged.

If anyone can represent those voices at City Hall and bring government to the residents of District 4 it is Greg Casar. We enthusiastically endorse him in District 4.


District 5: Ann Kitchen

With her long history of public and community leadership, Ann Kitchen is our unanimous choice to represent the new District 5. This south Austin district has many challenges ahead, beyond hosting two weekends of ACL Fest. It runs from Auditorium Shores down Lamar and Manchaca and past Slaughter. Like other areas of Austin, these corridors have undergone tremendous growth in recent years. Kitchen has focused on the three most important challenges that growth presents in her campaign – impacts on the environment, mobility, and affordability.
 
Kitchen is a founding member of the Save Our Springs Alliance, and has dedicated years of continued service and leadership to the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action. We predict she will quickly emerge as a progressive champion on energy and environmental issues if elected to City Council. Her mobility emphasis is on making sure short-term solutions – such as better sidewalks, light timing, etc. – remain a priority. Once elected, we hope Kitchen will bring her impressive big-picture vision on environmental, health, and affordability issues to help Council develop big-picture transportation solutions, as well.

Finally, on affordability, the northern 78704 neighborhoods are where many of Austin’s progressive musical, political, and arts communities lived decades ago. Some still do, though others were priced out and moved past Highway 71 to what is now the southern half of this district. Thankfully, one of Kitchen’s core policy planks is tax relief for homeowners and renters – a recognition of the cost challenges her fast-growing South Austin district will face.

Ann Kitchen is far and away the best choice for District 5, and we hope she brings her decades of impressive leadership and skills to the forefront on all issues, local and citywide.


District 6: Matt Stillwell

The needs of this northern-most region of Austin, which straddles the Travis and Williamson County line, has largely been overlooked by a more centrally focused City Council. Now, six Austinites are vying to represent District 6. Our staff was almost evenly split between Jimmy Flannigan and Matt Stillwell. However, on the balance we think Matt Stillwell is the better choice.

A longtime Democratic activist and former Legislative candidate in Williamson County, Stillwell has the strongest progressive credentials of all the candidates running in District 6. He also has a long history of involvement in Northwest Austin neighborhood and community organizations, giving him deep community connections that will serve him well at City Hall.

We were impressed by Stillwell’s overall vision for the city. Particularly important is his understanding of and commitment to water conservation. This is an important issue in District 6, which borders both Lake Austin and Lake Travis. These set Stillwell apart in the race.

Both Stillwell and Flannigan would serve District 6 capably. We caution readers to be wary of the other candidates in the race, namely noted anti-tax zealot Don Zimmerman. Several candidates in this race are openly campaigning as social conservatives, and we encourage our readers to do their research on whether these individuals share core values of equality and inclusion.

District 6 will earn some much-needed representation this cycle. We encourage voters to choose Matt Stillwell as the best choice in the race.


District 7: Jeb Boyt

In the crowded field for District 7, voters should look carefully at each candidate’s approach to addressing our housing and transportation needs. When they do, we hope they agree that Jeb Boyt is best suited to addressing the concerns of all residents in the area, not just long-time homeowners.

Boyt comes into the race with extensive experience on city boards and commissions, and will be able to make an immediate impact on improving transportation and protecting open space. A long-time advocate for more transit choices, he serves on the Alliance for Public Transportation and previously served on the City’s 2012 bond commission, Austin Parks Board, the Waller Creek Commission, and the Austin Metro Trails & Greenways Board. As a former attorney with the state, Boyt worked to protect our Texas coastline and preserve open spaces.

All of this experience provides Boyt with a nuanced understanding of how to address the needs of Austinites in District 7. The district itself is home to vocal central city neighborhoods of Allandale, Brentwood, and Crestview — all areas that Boyt and his wife have called come — as well as area north of 183 that have given rise to tremendous numbers of multi-unit residences. These voters and their concerns deserve a voice on council as well, and we believe Boyt is best suited to serving everyone in District 7, regardless of how long they’ve lived here or where they choose to live.

In a crowded field of experienced candidates, we think Boyt is the best choice for District 7 in its entirety. We enthusiastically endorse him and urge Burnt Orange Report readers to support him.


District 8: Ed Scruggs

In the race for District 8, which covers southwest Austin along MoPac up to Zilker Park, the candidate who offers the strongest direct representation for the district is Ed Scruggs. We enthusiastically endorse him for the District 8 seat.

Of the five candidates running in District 8, three are Democrats: Scruggs, Eliza May, and Darrell Pierce. All three have demonstrated commendable dedication to the major issues facing southwest Austin, especially transportation and the district’s increasing traffic problems. Pierce in particular caught the eye of some of our staff with his pragmatic approach to transportation issues and experience with City Hall. However, Scruggs’ history as a leader in the community and his greater overall vision for the city set him apart as the best choice to represent District 8.

Scruggs has long been an activist in southwest Austin, most notably founding the Circle C Area Democrats and thereby creating a home base to organize in a challenging area of Travis County. But his Democratic bonafides are not the only reason he’s the best choice in this race. Scruggs has been an active member of the Circle C community, advocating for amenities and policies that benefit homeowners in the area. He can speak at length about the issues facing area schools, the need for more parks, and the infrastructural challenges in this rapidly growing area of Austin. Scruggs has also demonstrated an awareness of a larger vision for the city, addressing conservation and affordability as part of his campaign. His deep involvement in the southwest Austin community make him the best qualified choice to represent the new District 8 at City Hall.

On the whole, Scruggs’ experience shows that he has what it takes to be a leader on issues that matter to southwest Austin. He stepped up to help turn one of the reddest areas of Austin blue, and he has continued to demonstrate that throughout his community activism.

It’s this record of community leadership that led Burnt Orange Report to endorse Ed Scruggs in District 8, and we urge you to support his campaign.


District 9: Chris Riley

This November, Austin will send many new faces to City Council. However, in District 9, residents have the opportunity to keep a seasoned council member at City Hall. But experience alone is not why the Burnt Orange Report voted unanimously to endorse Chris Riley. It is his progressive vision and policy record that make Riley the best choice for the actual majority of Austinites who live in District 9.

Since his election to City Council in 2009, Riley has been a ceaseless force for progressive policy. From expanding housing and transportation options to supporting our LGBT community to a seemingly unending enthusiasm for green initiatives, Riley has led the effort to pass numerous resolutions that have put Austin on the map as a city that lives up to its progressive reputation.

He sponsored a Net Zero emissions plan for the city by 2050, making Austin’s energy plan the most aggressive in the country. He followed up this year with his Affordable Energy Resolution, which makes Austin a leader in solar power while saving ratepayers millions. Riley — who takes public transit and rides a bicycle — successfully legalized transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft, and has been a champion of sidewalks and trails on our council. And when the Human Rights Campaign gave Austin the highest rating possible on their Municipal Equality Index, Riley sponsored a resolution to find areas where Austin can continue to better serve our LGBTQ population.

District 9 has the youngest voting population of any of the new council districts, and includes the UT campus as well as many of the neighborhoods that are home to young professionals and renters. Riley is the best choice for these voters, as is evidenced by his voting record on transportation and housing, and his overwhelming endorsement by the University Democrats and Austin Young Democrats.

His opponent has a vastly different record on issues that matter to young Austinites. Kathie Tovo, an incumbent council member who was elected in 2011, was the lone vote against extending existing Red Line service on evenings in a city plagued by drunk driving. Tovo also repeatedly attempted to delay the legalization of Uber and Lyft in Austin, going so far as to vote against a basic study about how the services work in other cities. She has repeatedly opposed more student housing, voting for historic zoning for a parking lot in West Campus rather than allow its owners to build affordable rental units and attempting to make the prohibition on “stealth dorms” permanent rather than sunset after several years. She also opposes Riley’s efforts to enable homeowners to more easily build garage apartments, which would increase the supply of housing where there is the greatest demand and provide income streams for homeowners struggling with rising costs of living.

As our new city government takes on the issues facing our vibrant and ever-growing city, we hope that they will continue to do so in a way that reflects our town’s continual commitment to progressive values. Chris Riley has proven time and time again that he is the kind of leader Austin needs.

Students, renters, young Austinites, and anyone who wants a more walkable, mobile, sustainable city already have a staunch advocate in Riley, and we urge voters to keep him on the council. Burnt Orange Report enthusiastically and unanimously endorses Chris Riley for Austin City Council District 9.


District 10: Mandy Dealey

A crowded field in District 10 competes over voters in one of the highest-turnout corridors in Austin. Democrats, progressives, and common-sense seekers would be wise to choose Dealey in this election. She offers the best balance of experience, leadership, and a desire to work effectively with other members of the future council.

Her two other potential rivals, Jason Meeker and Robert Thomas, have both made an effort to win over Democratic voters. We caution readers against both. Meeker has earned the support of some of the most reactionary anti-growth NIMBYs in Austin, suggesting that he offers few practical solutions for the genuine challenges we face in providing a sufficient supply of affordable housing for the people who currently struggle to pay rent here.

Thomas, who ran as a Republican against Donna Howard in 2012, has alarmed onlookers throughout this campaign cycle through his combative attitude along the campaign trail, frequently coming to near-blows with supporters of his opponents. He also seems to want Austin to forget that he ran in 2012 as a Republican for the State House, during which time he refused to offer a clear answer on his support for women’s reproductive rights. (Here’s a hint: if you’re not a Republican, don’t run for office as one.)

Dealey offers the best perspective and approach in this race. She has a lengthy record of service to city boards and commissions and civic organizations alike.

Dealey is by far the soundest choice in this race. We unanimously endorse her and urge voters to support Dealey in District 10.


Click here for our endorsement in the Mayor’s race.

Early Voting: October 20-31 | Election Day: Tuesday, November 4
Travis County voting locations | Williamson County voting locations
Photo ID is required to vote. Click here for information.


Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.

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Burnt Orange Report

Burnt Orange Report, or BOR for short, is Texas' largest political blog, written from a progressive/liberal/Democratic standpoint.

3 Comments

  1. According to this site’s “about” page, the Burnt Orange is supposed to be advocating progressive politics. You got about half your endorsements right, but some don’t strike me as the most progressive candidates.

    If I were in District 10, I think Jason Meeker is probably more progressive than Mandy Dealy. Kathie Tovo would have been be a better choice for District 9 than Chris Riley. And Ora Houston would have been a better call than Dewayne Lofton. I also think there are more progressive options in District 7, but I don’t have a particular favorite there.

    At least you got my district right.

  2. Your description of my campaign is inaccurate. Moreover, my record as a Zoning and Platting Commissioner is clear. I favor growth that is responsible and that respects neighborhoods. I’m also a strong advocate for making growth pay for itself. I earned the endorsement of the Austin Neighborhoods Council for my pro-Austin positions.

    Your description of Robert Thomas’ campaign is accurate.

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