AISD: Outside Money, Mixed Results

AISD Board

Kendall Pace: 37,842 (39.7%)
Hillary Procknow: 23,109 (24.2%)
Nael Chavez: 15,235 (16.0%)
Kazique J. Prince: 11,310 (11.9%)
Andy M. Trimino: 7,894 (8.3%)

Edmund T. Gordon: 3,622 (34.6%)
David "D" Thompson: 2,982 (28.5%)
P. Kevin Bryant: 1,963 (18.7%)
Stanton Strickland: 1,913 (18.2%)

Julie Cowan: 18,905 (77.4%)
Karen Zern Flanagan: 5,516 (22.6%)

Paul Saldaña: 5,541 (35.2%)
Kate Mason-Murphy: 5,391 (34.2%)
Monica Sanchez: 4,809 (30.5%)

Robert Schneider: 9,925 (52.0%)
Yasmin Wagner: 9,157 (48.0%)

Strange tides and strange money flowed into and through the Austin Independent School District trustee elections. Normally the most brackish of political backwaters, with four vacant seats and a sudden influx of dark money from "pro-reform" PACs, the already turbulent races made for some erratic results. One common prediction held, with UT chair of African and African Diaspora Studies Ted Gordon and former KIPP Austin charter co-founder David "D" Thompson heading to a run-off in District 1 (Northeast). However, the closing hours of the race were complicated by reports that the Texas branch of Leadership for Educational Equity – a DC-based pressure group replete with money from figures including former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and IT venture capitalist Arthur Rock – was basically operating as a second campaign office for Thompson. Expect that to become a major part of the run-off debate.

Across town in District 6 (Southeast), longtime education advocate/district PR consultant Paul Saldaña was virtually neck and neck with former Ann Richards school teacher Kate Mason-Murphy, who ran a no-cash, word-of-mouth race, and surprisingly pushed former Austin Council of PTAs president Monica Sanchez into third place.

Even more surprising is the At-Large Place 9 race, where Education Austin's favored candidate Kazique Prince ran a distant fourth. Kendall Pace had a comfortable lead, but fell short of the 50% mark, and so faces a run-off with Hillary Procknow – the UT staffer who had essentially suspended her campaign to endorse Prince. Saying she was "just as surprised as anyone else," Procknow explained that she had been at home with her family when the results arrived. It was after midnight, when the final East Austin precincts reported, that she confirmed she would de-mothball her campaign, adding that she was "very heartened that people have listened to my message."

Only two of the five races avoided run-offs, with Julie Cowan up three-to-one over Karen Flanagan in District 4, and District 7 incumbent Robert Schneider with an eight-point lead in early voting, which dwindled to four, over challenger Yasmin Wagner. Schneider said he was "obviously very pleased and very much looking forward to serving the people of Southeast Austin." Like District 1, this was a target seat for another reform group: Between direct donations and dark money spending, Austin Kids First spent almost $40,000 on Wagner. Schneider said, "They're obviously a very pro-reform education group, and their idea of what's good for kids and what the definition in Austin is, are very different."

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