D3: Sibling Rivalry Put to Rest
Renteria claims a decisive victory over Almanza
Chanting "Pio, Pio!" the lively crowd of supporters at Pio Renteria's run-off election night party on Haskell Street ushered the winner to a podium, where he joined his wife Lori and campaign staff to make a victory speech. The contentious race that initially saw a dozen candidates, and produced a sibling rivalry run-off showdown between brother and sister, ended on a note of humility and gratitude. Surpassing his opponent Susana Almanza, of the environmental/social justice group PODER, by 20% of the vote, Renteria, a retired computer tech and longtime community activist, said the victory is proof that you can run a modest grassroots campaign and still be victorious. "We don't have to go out there and raise and spend a big amount of money to run, that's what we proved to the city tonight – that someone with a humble beginning that loves Austin can go out and win and represent the people. And that's what I'm planning to do," said Renteria.
The future council member says he'll tackle pressing issues of the east and southeast district, including gentrification, resident displacement, and rising property taxes. "When you force people to move out, then we lose the community," he said, while adding, "I'm not against growth – we have to create jobs, it's the only way to survive, but we have to do it in a way that respects the community."
While he said he was surprised by the sizable and steady lead in early vote totals (he trailed Almanza by less than 230 votes in the general election), the newly elected D3 representative attributed his success to the young, energetic, and experienced campaign staff that tirelessly knocked on doors and phone-banked for his campaign. Hired on after Renteria secured a shot at the run-offs, campaign manager David Chincanchan and field manager Nick Solorzano, who both spent time working for Congressman Lloyd Doggett's campaign, helped pump up the voting base by canvassing the entire district – and in the end, Renteria wound up winning every precinct but two, both in the far southeastern corner of the district.
The sea of supporters, who enjoyed barbecue and beer throughout the brisk December night, included former D3 opponents Jose Valera, Mario Cantu, and Ricardo Turullols-Bonilla. Valera, who had trailed Renteria by only 2% of the vote in the Nov. 4 general election, said he tried to decline endorsing either candidate. However, the "tipping point" came when he witnessed an outburst of anger by the Almanza camp (namely Daniel Llanes of the River Bluff Neighborhood Association) over urban farms during the current Council's final meeting last week. While he respects both candidates, Valera realized Almanza would likely carry the drama to the dais. "Pio will be more approachable and willing to open the door to anyone in the district," said Valera. As for the sibling rivalry, Renteria, as he has before, said he harbors no hard feelings toward Almanza and even complimented her campaign. (Almanza – who had not called Renteria to concede as of press time – did not respond to calls requesting comment.) However, she lamented the loss to a local news station. "Hurt my feelings and broke my heart. It's going to take time to mend my heart 'cause it is broken," she said. Almanza apparently is planning to give her brother "hell" for "selling out" to big developers.
"I'm so humbled to have so many people have faith in me," Renteria told the Chronicle. With a smile, he added, "And if I mess up, I told them they can come give me a good kick in the butt!"