Run-Off Ticker: Every Vote Really Will Matter!

Election news to use at the polls


Alex Strenger, with belt, at an October candidate forum with Adler, Laura Morrison, and Travis Duncan, all of whom beat him. (Photo by John Anderson)

Many Dozens of Voters Storm the Polls: Remember how excited you were to vote in Novem­ber? Remember how good it felt to make your civic voice heard? Those good vibes are but a faint memory now, as early voting turnout for the Dec. 11 run-off has by press time reached a whopping 1.51%, or 10,017 Travis County voters, or enough to fill less than two-thirds of the Frank Erwin Center. Without a marquee U.S. Senate race, or an easy way to love or loathe the Trumpublicans, or even a citywide race (although the Austin ISD and ACC races are districtwide), it really will be a relative handful of voters deciding the local political dynamics of the next two years. With the usual anyone-can-vote-anywhere caveat, the most active early voting sites as of Tuesday were the Randalls on S. MoPac (by a huge margin) and on Brodie at Slaughter; other sites are averaging about 60 voters each day...

You Might Want to Dial That Back a Bit: The lackadaisical turnout for the run-off isn't just embarrassing; it's "nothing short of an act of voter suppression," says Ed Espinoza, executive director of Prog­ress Texas and strategist/special friend to the Paige Ellis campaign in D8. He cites a reduced number of early voting sites compared to the run-offs in 2014 (14 vs. 18), with D8 and D1 only having one each but D9 – where there is no Council run-off – having three. That one D8 site (the S. MoPac Randalls) has accounted for 20% of the entire early vote so far, but it's closer to Frank Ward's home base in Circle C, than to Ellis' more Democratic voters along Loop 360...

Always Looking at the Numbers: Fiscally conservative Council candidate Frank Ward failed to file two financial disclosures, a possible class B misdemeanor that could result in a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail if found guilty, The Austin Bulldog reports. The D8 run-off contender was notified by the city of his error on Sept. 11, the day after one of the forms was due, but had yet to file the reports as of Tuesday, according to the Bulldog, which said it would analyze the filings of the D1 and D3 candidates later in the week...

The Old Man and the Circle C-er: In better news for Ward, on Monday he announced he'd snagged the endorsement of former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who urged district residents to vote for "sensibility and fiscal responsibility." In a Facebook post, Ward wrote: "I'm proud to have the support of another top Austin leader ... as a voice of reason on city issues, I'm particularly grateful for Mayor Leffingwell's endorsement." Leffingwell's own son, also named Frank, is likewise a GOP die-hard and a former city council member in Round Rock; the former mayor lives in Austin's District 10...

The Candidate So Nice, They Funded Her Twice? Austin ISD At-Large Place 9 candidate Arati Singh allegedly failed to disclose a $10,000 contribution from Education Austin's political action committee, according to a filing with the Texas Ethics Commission. The teachers union PAC made two separate gifts to Singh in October, according to its own finance report, but the candidate only reported one; Singh's campaign filed an amended report Monday. Education Austin president Ken Zarifis explained Tuesday that the union "checked the wrong box" on its report, and that the second $10,000 was an in-kind donation, which the board chose (as it commonly does) to "give more insight into how the money was used." Singh's opponent Carmen Tilton said she had "serious concerns" about the complaint: "I hope Arati Singh can get her story straight, because the conflicting tales from her and the PAC in question aren't passing the smell test."...

A Technical Knockout: Very long-shot mayoral candidate Alex Strenger squeezed one more photo op out of the election, meeting Mayor Steve Adler at City Hall to hand over his WWE-style "Mayor" championship belt (brandished on the campaign trail) to the victorious incumbent. In a press release, Strenger – self-described "pedicab driver and political activist" who campaigned "sarcastically" on building a dome over the city to keep out Californians – said he would challenge the mayor "to continue to work with the community stakeholders on traffic, lowering taxes, and affordability issues." Strenger garnered 2,860 votes (0.99%) on Nov. 6. Said the mayor after accepting Strenger's belt: "It was a pretty lighthearted few minutes that gave me the opportunity to acknowledge Alex's hard work during the campaign."...

Beto Social Media Spin-Off: U.S. Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke is "no longer ruling out" a presidential run, and in Austin, a few Beto campaigners have teamed up for a different next chapter: promoting social media strategies for "progressive candidates and non-profits." Jeni Putalavage-Ross and Canan Yetmen have co-founded digital marketing consultancy SuperNova, joined by Lizette Resendez, Cather­ine Shattuck, and Samantha Eisenmenger. According to Putalavage-Ross, the group "jelled as a team" working on the campaign, and will now "focus on storytelling" to "enable everyone who's interested in politics ... to become individual content producers." The group has targeted January and the upcoming Lege session for SuperNova's public rollout. "We're all over 40," Putalavage-Ross noted, "not millennials, and not trying to use social media 'tricks' or gimmicks to reach people. Our principles will remain storytelling and authenticity, and empowering people to tell their own stories."

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