Winding Up the Election Cycle
Harper-Madison, Ellis to join Council; Singh, Gharakhanian prevail
By Mike Clark-Madison, Nina Hernandez, Sarah Marloff, Austin Sanders, and Mary Tuma, Fri., Dec. 14, 2018
With all votes counted, newcomers Natasha Harper-Madison and Paige Ellis and incumbent Sabino "Pio" Renteria won the last remaining Austin City Council races, while Arati Singh and Stephanie Gharakhanian will be joining the Austin ISD and Austin Community College boards of trustees, respectively.
Harper-Madison, who narrowly trailed Mariana Salazar in the general election Nov. 6, notched a resounding 72% of the run-off vote to succeed District 1 Council Member Ora Houston. "I feel blessed, I feel privileged, I feel honored, I feel intensely responsible," Harper-Madison told the Chronicle at her election night celebration at the Skylark Lounge. "I feel like I have a big job ahead of me, and I need to do it well." She thanked Austin's black community, which continued to rally around her – with endorsements by former Travis County Dem Chair Vincent Harding, who placed third in the Nov. 6 round, and Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion – through the final days of her campaign. The Eastside native promised, "You can trust me to listen. I don't need to be right. I don't need to be the smartest person in the room. I will listen to the guidance and the careful consideration of the people that are contributing information, institutional knowledge that I frankly don't have." Harper-Madison praised Salazar, who left her job at the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition to run, for a hard-fought campaign and suggested future collaboration between the two. "In the face of adversity, she kept pushing. I appreciate that she worked so hard and ran this race, and really presented that Austin is a growing and ever-changing city. And we have to make certain that all voices are represented."
Over in D3, Renteria took over 64% of the vote in his fourth consecutive matchup against his sister, PODER director Susana Almanza. "I feel really good," he said when reached by phone. After a brief break "buying presents for kids and grandkids and one great-grandson," Renteria plans to "really focus immediately on affordable housing and working on the projects already started. My goal is to really focus on corridors as we spend more on transportation ... [We] need to get people to their jobs without getting in cars; we need to better connect our trails." He's also ready to touch the now-less-radioactive issue of rewriting the land use code: "We need to start looking at our zoning; now, we're going to be able to make some good decisions."
Almanza, meanwhile, told us that despite the result, "It's a great victory for us – so many people who have never been involved got involved." She promises to continue her activism, including implementing the People's Plan to address affordability and displacement. "It'll be a big thing in the coming year."
In the D8 race to succeed Ellen Troxclair (where more votes were cast than in D1 and D3 combined), Ellis finished with 56% of the vote against Frank Ward, who sought to keep the seat in Republican hands. Ellis attributed her win to that relatively high turnout: "The mobilization efforts over the past few years in the district made neighbors aware of what's going on, and of how important it is to promise to vote and then follow through." While Ellis is "definitely committed to environmental responsibility as we manage our growth, whether it be with housing or transportation," she acknowledged Ward's call for ideological diversity, saying she'll "be dedicated to building working majorities to get good things done in the district. ... To think there's only dissent among members when there's a conservative on Council means you probably haven't ever seen a City Council meeting."
On the AISD Board of Trustees, the vacant At-Large Place 9 will be filled by Singh, who finished second to Carmen Tilton in November but won this round with 60% in a surprisingly hard-fought and expensive contest. Tilton said she's "proud of the clean campaign I ran," and offered her congratulations to Singh, who told the Chronicle: "We've got to ... focus on our kids and close some of the equity gaps in our schools, and I can't wait to get started." She'll hit the ground running; even as the votes were being counted, the district disclosed cost-cutting proposals, including closing as many as 12 schools (see "Could AISD Shutter 12 Schools?" Dec. 14).
Gharakhanian, who very nearly won the ACC Place 8 race outright on Nov. 6, commanded 63% of the vote in the multi-county district against Sarah Mills. Both candidates recognized each other's efforts, with Gharakhanian telling the Chronicle, "we both tried to run positive campaigns, and I look forward to working with her in the future," and Mills saying, "I am excited for Stephanie; I think she's going to do great."
A little farther afield, the long midterm cycle also wrapped up in San Marcos, where Joca Marquez and Mark Rockeymoore will join City Council, and in Houston, where state Rep. Carol Alvarado prevailed in the quick special election to replace outgoing Sen. Sylvia Garcia, who's on her way to Congress.
Austin City Council District 1
Natasha Harper-Madison: 3,404 (71.7%)
Mariana Salazar: 1,341 (28.3%)
Austin City Council District 3
Sabino "Pio" Renteria: 2,414 (64.3%)
Susana Almanza: 1,339 (35.7%)
Austin City Council District 8
Paige Ellis: 6,115 (56.0%)
Frank Ward: 4,799 (44.0%)
AISD Board, At-Large Place 9
Arati Singh: 15,256 (60.4%)
Carmen Tilton: 9,989 (39.6%)
ACC Board, Place 8 (district-wide)
Stephanie Gharakhanian: 19,347 (62.7%)
Sarah Mills: 11,528 (37.3%)