Rounding Out the Ballot

The minor party candidates and the council races.

Gus Garcia's retirement will leave Austin with one Mexican-American council member -- unless Raul Alvarez and Gavino Fernandez are both beaten by Libertarian Steven Adams, and then we'll have none. As a Libertarian, Adams considers himself a political minority in Austin that deserves representation on the City Council just as much as any ethnic group. The self-employed candidate from Northwest Austin won 18% of the vote in 2002 when he ran for Precinct 2 justice of the peace. But his priorities -- reducing or eliminating taxes and government services, particularly Capital Metro -- stand in contrast to the basic goals shared by both Alvarez and Fernandez: emphasizing the needs of Austin's Hispanic community, addressing Holly and other environmental problems east of I-35, promoting social and racial justice, appropriate neighborhood planning, reducing gentrification, and creating affordable housing.

Another Anglo Libertarian with similar views to Adams, Wes Benedict is the sole obstacle to Danny Thomas' re-election in Place 6, but Benedict's most prominent campaign theme -- his opposition to light rail -- made more sense when he ran last year against Travis Co. Commissioner Margaret Gomez, who has sat on the Capital Metro board since 1997, than it does against Thomas, the only Austin council member to come out against light rail in 2000.

Thomas says he's taking the challenger seriously. The 19-year APD veteran and current minister says he hopes to finish projects such as the redevelopment of East 11th and 12th streets and his and Alvarez's anti-gentrification initiatives and is focusing his race on the three E's -- economics, environment, and equity -- familiar from the Smart Growth era, plus a fourth E, education.

But since Thomas and Alvarez have similar records of City Hall accomplishment to defend on the Eastside, why is there no equivalent of Gavino Fernandez challenging the Place 6 incumbent? Austin NAACP Chapter President Nelson Linder, who came in third against Thomas and then-incumbent Willie Lewis in the 2000 election, says many problems facing African-American communities continue to go unaddressed, "but I don't think it's a Danny Thomas problem. It's a city problem." While Lewis had been unpopular and inaccessible, he adds, "Danny's likeable and accessible, and I think people respect that."

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