Burnt Orange Report’s Endorsements in Austin Runoff Elections

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Early voting is underway for runoff elections across Austin. Every voter in the City of Austin, Austin Independent School District, and ACC jurisdiction can and should vote. These races are important and will have a significant impact on your daily life in our community.

Early voting runs from December 1 to 12, and Election Day is Tuesday, December 16.

These endorsements are not much of a departure from our earlier recommendations in November’s Austin City Council races. In races where we initially cast a dual endorsement, we revisited our choices in the runoffs. Where our endorsed candidate did not make the runoff, we chose again.

Additionally, we are recommending candidates in the ACC and AISD runoffs. Our decisions in the AISD races were driven by the need to provide adequate representation for the majority-minority student population in our schools, as well as promote strong ties in the communities in which these children live. Finally, we chose the individual in the ACC runoff who we believe is best suited to providing experienced leadership on the board.

Mayor: Mike Martinez
District 1: DeWayne Lofton
District 3: Sabino “Pio” Renteria
District 4: Greg Casar
District 6: Jimmy Flannigan
District 7: Jeb Boyt
District 8: Ed Scruggs
District 10: Mandy Dealey
AISD District 1: Ted Gordon
AISD District 6: Paul Saldana
AISD District 9: Hillary Procknow
ACC Trustee: Jade Chang Sheppard

Early Voting: December 1-12 | Election Day: Tuesday, December 16
Travis County voting locations | Williamson County voting locations
Photo ID is required to vote. Click here for information.



Mayor: Mike Martinez

While our staff was initially split between Martinez and current Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, in the runoff we overwhelmingly choose Martinez. His experience as chairman of the Capital Metro board — turning around a troubled agency and restoring fiscal solvency — shows that he knows how to do the tough, nitty-gritty work of governing.

While we do not agree with all of his votes, ultimately we appreciate his bold leadership style, and we think he is better suited to consistently garnering the six votes needed on the new council to actually move agenda items forward. As we wrote in our previous endorsement, “The eight-year council member appears best positioned to prevent ward-style bargaining from grinding city government to a halt or preventing big ideas from coming to fruition.”

Martinez’s opponent, newcomer Steve Adler, has a genuinely impressive record of civic engagement and is clearly deeply invested in this city. No one should doubt his desire to give back to Austin. However, there appears to be a deepening chasm between Adler the man and Adler the candidate. We have qualms about the increasingly conservative tone of his campaign, particularly in terms of tax policy (particularly his call for a 20% homestead exemption), and he has an advantage of having never held office and thus having no actual voting record to defend on the campaign trail. We commend Adler for his willingness to take some major progressive stances — for instance, his statement at the Workers Defense Project forum that he is willing to consider a substantial increase in the minimum wage to over $16 an hour — but as yet we’re unsure how he would be able to actually balance the competing interests of the real estate industry and neighborhood association leaders that are backing him.

Ultimately we think Austin voters are better off choosing the known quantity, who will come to the new 10-1 council with a wealth of experience of what has been tried and what new policies are now possible with a more geographically representative municipal governing body. We urge a vote for Mike Martinez for Mayor of Austin.


District 1: DeWayne Lofton

We initially endorsed Lofton narrowly over his now-runoff opponent Ora Houston, owing to his approach to housing and transportation. However, we were surprised with his decision to press on in a runoff after garnering 14% in the first round to Ora Houston’s 49%. On the whole we still prefer his stance on the issues and reiterate the sentiment expressed previously that we wish he had “started campaigning with more vigor earlier in the race.”



District 3: Sabino “Pio” Renteria

We were pleased to see our endorsed candidate Pio Renteria emerge from a crowded field and make the runoff for District 3, and continue to urge voters to choose him. As we wrote before, “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.” While his sister and runoff opponent Susana Almanza has an impressive record of community activism, ultimately we are concerned that she is too divisive to advocate successfully for the many needs of residents of District 3. Case in point: her obstinacy on the needs of Austin’s urban farms, which are a vital part of our local economy and critical to providing sustainable food for all residents of our city. Pio is the better bet, and will be more willing to listen to and work with everyone he represents.



District 4: Greg Casar

We unanimously endorse Greg Casar in the runoff for District 4. As we wrote previously, “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.”

Voters be warned: do your research on Casar’s opponent Laura Pressley, who trailed by a sizable margin going in to the runoff and has since launched a volley of misleading attack ads on Casar. Pressley — who has since lost the endorsement of the Austin American-Statesman once they realized she continues to hold the kooky views she’s never been shy about expressing — is attacking Greg for his age, marital status, religion, and even the fact that he rents his home. In a city that is over 54% renters, it’s frankly offensive to suggest that only homeowners can adequately represent the needs of Austinites on our council.

Perhaps most alarming are the number of individuals backing Pressley who have actively disregarded the more distressing elements of her background simply because of her regressive attitudes towards land use. Folks should strongly consider if an Alex Jones acolyte and 9/11 conspiracy theorist who claims to feel vibrations from cordless phones and iPads really merits a place on our City Council.

We urge the voters to pick the candidate with a clear record of progressive advocacy at City Council and choose Greg Casar in District 4.


District 6: Jimmy Flannigan

Our staff was initially split between Flannigan and Stillwell in the first round, with Stillwell gaining a minor edge. Now, in the runoff, the choice is clear. We unanimously endorse Flannigan as the only legitimate choice in District 6. Flannigan has an impressive history of advocacy on municipal issues as former Chair of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. A small business owner himself, he will provide the far north section of Austin — including parts of Williamson County — with fair representation.

Flannigan’s opponent, Don Zimmerman, is a divisive, combative, excessively litigious Republican known for his repeated failed attempts at public office. He has compared property taxes to rape and having one’s kidneys forcibly removed, which suggests that he fails to appreciate the value of what good government provides the public. On the campaign trail, Zimmerman has repeatedly emphasized his refusal to work with other members of the Council. That won’t help this fast-growing district address its housing or transportation needs.

If voters in District 6 want capable, even-handed representation from someone willing to keep an open door and listen to all residents, their best and only choice is Jimmy Flannigan.



District 7: Jeb Boyt

We initially endorsed Boyt and were pleased to see him make a runoff in a crowded field. If voters care about affordable housing and expanding transportation options, they need to look closely at Boyt’s impressive record of accomplishments on these issues.

Boyt is by far the most experienced candidate on municipal issues — 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.

As we wrote previously, “Jeb Boyt is best suited to addressing the concerns of all residents in the area, not just long-time homeowners.” He is the best choice for anyone who wants to see Austin address its housing and transportation needs with an eye to everyone who lives here. We enthusiastically endorse him and encourage voters to support him in the runoff.



District 8: Ed Scruggs

We endorsed Ed Scruggs in the first round and are thrilled to see him in this close, competitive runoff. Scruggs’ history as a leader in his southwest Austin community and his greater overall vision for the city set him apart as the best choice to represent District 8.

Scruggs has been an active member of the Circle C community, serving on his homeowners association board and 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.

His runoff opponent, Ellen Troxclair, seems more aligned with the Tea Party’s view of government, which is essentially that we don’t need any.

Southwest Austin needs open-minded representation and a council member who respects the value of municipal government to fill potholes, maintain parks, and provide basic services. Ed Scruggs is by far the best choice and we urge voters to support him.



District 10: Mandy Dealey

As we wrote in our previous endorsement, Dealey “offers the best balance of experience, leadership, and a desire to work effectively with other members of the future council.” Her opponent, Sherri Gallo, is a conservative who slipped past party-switching Robert Thomas to garner the other runoff spot. Dealey has a lengthy record of service to city boards and commissions and civic organizations alike. She is the soundest choice in District 10.



AISD District 1: Ted Gordon

This is a critical race for public school students in Austin. Gordon, a UT professor and chair of UT’s African and African Diaspora Studies, is the best choice for this northeast district, home to many of the district’s African American students. His opponent, David Thompson, has received tremendous financial support from out-of-state “school reform” groups that simply do not have the best interest of school children — especially those in disadvantaged circumstances — at heart. We unanimously endorse and urge a vote for Gordon.



AISD District 6: Paul Saldaña

Saldaña has a long history of activism and advocacy in East Austin’s Hispanic community, and is the best choice for this district. Saldaña attended public schools, worked for former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, and has extensive experience on AISD citizen committees and task forces. His wife is a teacher and he has kids in the school system, so he has a vested interest in making sure AISD is strong. He also knows his way around local politics and will hopefully be able to effectively collaborate on innovative efforts at all levels of government to support public education. We unanimously endorse Saldaña.



AISD District 9: Hillary Procknow

We urge a vote for Hillary Procknow based on her candid statements on the campaign trail about race and privilege. Initially, many of our staff members supported Dr. Kazique Prince, who earned the backing of Education Austin, the local teacher’s group, as well as current and former AISD at-large board members. Procknow herself endorsed Prince, who unfortunately did not make the runoff. In a statement after the November vote, Procknow called attention to the troubling optics of the race, in which a white woman who dropped out won more votes than the African American candidate she endorsed:

I feel a certain responsibility to say that at least in some part white privilege was in play in this election because I think I have a name that is easily recognizable as a white candidate,” Procknow said. “I am seriously concerned about the way that may have played out because it’s not a surprise that people are not particularly informed about elections at the school board level. If I publicly supported Kazique Prince and still garnered more support than he did, then at least a percentage of those voters were not informed about the election and voted simply on the ethnic presentation of the name. It would be irresponsible of me to not acknowledge the name-and-race politics of this.

While Pace has impressive qualifications, we have qualms about her receiving $35,000 from a group of Teach For America alums who oppose the local teacher’s union. Education Austin has not endorsed in the runoff as of publication time.

On the balance, we think Procknow, a program coordinator with UT’s Texas Success Initiative, is better suited to vocalizing the needs of low-income and minority students, who are making up an ever larger share of the AISD student body. We urge a vote for Procknow in the runoff.



ACC Trustee: Jade Chang Sheppard

Sheppard is a familiar face to folks involved with local politics. After an initial campaign for HD-50, Sheppard learned from the experience and became more involved in the local progressive community. But that’s not why we think she is the best choice for this at-large seat. Sheppard is an impressive businesswoman who worked herself from struggling to get by with two kids and Medicaid to owning a multimillion-dollar construction company. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she owes her success to strong public education. ACC is considering extensive capital projects at this time, and Sheppard’s experience in construction — particularly bidding and procurement — will provide valuable knowledge in this process. We urge voters to choose Sheppard for an at-large place on the ACC board of trustees.


Early Voting: December 1-12 | Election Day: Tuesday, December 16
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.

2 Comments

  1. Technically, Pressley is attacking him for never paying property taxes, by which I assume she really means “never owning a home”. Of course, most folks realize that renters pay property taxes indirectly through their rent. In other words, the landlord’s property tax bill is typically passed to the resident(s) — in full, or close to, though recent property tax changes may take some time to filter down to rent price changes.

    Also, it’s worth noting that Pressley is currently a renter. She is saying she has paid property taxes in the past, not that she currently pays them (though, again, she pays them through her rent, indirectly).

    It’s well understood that all, or part of, property taxes get included in rents. One has to assume that she is being extremely literal / obfuscating on the flyer, since it gives her an attack on Casar that makes him sound like a possible tax-dodger, or someone not in tune with homeowners, or it reinforces the “too young” aspect.

    While I love a good political attack, and spin kind of goes with that, it’s important (to me at least) that the spin or wording of the attack doesn’t give the reader a falsehood, even if the text itself could be narrowly read to be true. Depending on your viewpoint perhaps several of her points are misleading, highly misleading, perhaps even lies — though she has done a good job to word it so that most could have multiple interpretations.

  2. So Almanza is hostile to ‘the needs of Austin’s Urban Farms’–? Wow, what a ridiculous oversimplification of a complex situation. I suspect you might be hostile to having the streets of your neighborhood crowded with cars, thus placing a commercial load on a residential traffic pattern. I suspect you might be hostile to someone slaughtering animals on the residential lot next to you. I don’t imagine you’d like the flies or the odors, either. Let’s see how much wealthy Austinites would like ‘urban farms’ in Westlake Hills or Circle C! What hypocrisy. Susana Almanza has represented the people of her area for decades–now Austinites have the chance to make it official.

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