Election Notes: Ward Politics
Troxclair gets her man
Troxclair Gets Her Man
Speculation began last Thursday when outgoing District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair issued a cryptic endorsement of an unnamed conservative candidate to succeed her in November; on Monday, that conservative turned out to be Frank Ward, who filed his application for candidacy Monday, the first day he could file.
Ward is 36 years old, a public relations specialist and partner at the MACH 1 Group who previously worked as a communications director to former Republican state Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, and a fact-checker at the White House under George W. Bush (tough gig). He has experience at the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and the Republican National Committee, and currently serves on the Austin Parks Board (as Troxclair's appointee), and as chairman of the city's Land, Facilities, and Programs Committee. Atypical for a conservative, he touts his "deep" commitment to public broadcasting as a member of the KLRU-TV/Austin PBS Strategic Planning Committee.
Ward wrote in a statement following his filing: "While Austin is unlike any city in America, its grasp on what makes it 'weird' and wonderful seems to be slowly slipping away. He cited the "unsustainable rise in property taxes, stupefying traffic and mobility challenges, and a cumbersome regulatory regime that makes individuals want to pull out their hair and small businesses question whether they either want to stay in Austin or possibly relocate here." Signaling an affection for the Austin bashing enjoyed by Troxclair and GOP state officials, Ward laments the supposed "battle being waged between the Austin you chose and the Austin that is imposed upon you."
Ward's entry in the D8 race puts an end to the inevitability of a liberal replacement on the dais. Previously, only Rich DePalma, Bobby Levinski, and Paige Ellis had planned to run. – M.T.
Elsewhere Along the Dais
• Lewis Conway Jr. formally filed for District 1 on Monday, making history as the first felon to ever do so in Texas. (Conway was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1991.) His attorney Rico Garcia told a crowd outside City Hall that no one has previously challenged the assumption that felons can't run for office, and told the other candidates in the D1 race (Vincent Harding, Natasha Harper-Madison, Mariana Salazar, and newcomer Reedy Spigner, who filed a Campaign Treasurer Appointment last Tuesday) that the Conway campaign stands willing and able to combat any legal challenges to the filing. State law is currently unclear on whether an ex-convict can run for public office (see "Lewis Conway Jr. Faces Long Odds," Dec. 15, 2017), but any challenge to his candidacy would need to come from a would-be injured party, i.e., his competition. In remarks before officially turning in his paperwork, Conway recalled watching the TV show Roots as a child, and the character Kunta Kinte, whose foot the slave owners cut off to keep him in bondage – even that could not keep Kinte from running. He sees a parallel to his own journey as a Council candidate, with the question of whether he could even be placed on the ballot dogging him from the beginning. "We continued to run," Conway said, "even after they refused to call us anything but formerly incarcerated." – N.H.
• Candidate pools are coming together, and state cop union Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas doesn't like anybody who's running for local office. On Monday, the organization ran a full-page ad in the Statesman pleading that "mature adult[s]" with the "ability to find common ground without constant grandstanding to the media and hoping to someday run for higher elective office" file to run for either mayor or the five open City Council positions before the Aug. 20 filing deadline. (CLEAT's call also mentions candidates with no "criminal history," a likely jab at Lewis Conway Jr.) Asked Tuesday whether the call was at all related to Council's rejection of the agreed-to police contract last December, Executive Director Charley Wilkison told me it's "a direct result." He said there's not a single candidate – incumbent or otherwise – whom CLEAT plans to endorse. Asked if the Austin Police Association stands in lockstep with the state union, President Ken Casaday said his body's still vetting candidates, and doesn't plan to issue a blanket rejection. – C.H.
• Kathie Tovo submitted a petition with over 4,700 signatures to the city clerk on Tuesday, which will earn her a spot on the ballot for a third time once the signatures are validated. She thanked 80-plus volunteers who helped her collect and verify signatures, and said she was ready to continue campaigning. Asked about the large fundraising totals reported by her challenger Danielle Skidmore, Tovo was unfazed. "I've been outspent in both previous campaigns and defeated two incumbents in challenging races, so, I am not worried about the fundraising," she said. – A.S.
Signing Up for the School Board
• Candidate filing for the Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees elections opened Monday as well, and so far, two candidates had filed for the two open seats. Kristin Ashy will run for the District 4 seat being vacated by Board Secretary Julie Cowan. Ashy is an AISD parent, former PTA president, and was appointed to the district's Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee by Cowan. Ashy's priorities include addressing the "unique paradox" of simultaneous overcrowding in the district's northwest schools and underenrollment on the Eastside. "Part of that is accomplished through dispelling the misconception I've heard that on the Eastside, 'You can live here, but you don't want to put your kids in the schools,'" she said. "By engaging the Austin Board of Realtors to show them the incredible things happening at those schools, we encourage more people to go back to those areas."
Reached Monday, Cowan explained she decided to step down to focus on other aspects of her life. She said it was "an honor to serve the school district and District 4," and shared her support of Ashy's candidacy.
District 7 incumbent and Board Vice President Yasmin Wagner also filed Monday. Neither candidate has any challengers at this point. – A.S.