City Council District 4: A Council Veteran Seeks Transformation

Incumbent Greg Casar looks to continue reimagining public safety if reelected to third term

Council Member Greg Casar (Photo by John Anderson)

Earlier this year, Council Member Greg Casar was considering resigning to run for the open Texas Senate seat now held by Sarah Eckhardt. Ultimately, he elected to stay at City Hall. "I haven't second-guessed that or regretted it for a second," Casar said of his decision. Now the two-term incumbent seeks another four years representing Northeast Austin in a race that's drawn new and familiar challengers.

Ramesses II Setepenre is a political newcomer and self-described ecosocialist running on a "all-things-progressive" platform. In a recent candidate forum, Setepenre, citing a negative experience working as a contractor at City Hall, credited their candidacy to Casar failing to address their concerns. "I'm running and representing myself and challenging [Casar's] position," he said. "I don't need no man to represent me."

Louis Herrin III, an engineer, returns yet again to challenge Casar after losing to him in both 2014 and 2016. Chief among Herrin's priorities are reallocating funding to the Austin Police Department and reinstating Austin's camping ban – reversing two efforts Casar spearheaded in his current term. Despite the opposition, Casar's reelection campaign appears to face little threat; he's reported over $100,000 in campaign contributions – almost quadrupling Herrin's approximate $26,000 (Setepenre reported raising no money).

If reelected, Casar views another four years as an opportunity to pursue more systemic, transformative change, specifically in the realms of renewable energy; transitioning funds away from policing and mass incarceration and toward community-based safety; and a citywide anti-displacement plan. "We are swimming upstream, trying to push towards more economic and racial fairness, but we know that federal and state leaders are pushing really hard the other way," he said. Although proud of Coun­cil's work to end Austin's juvenile curfew and pass the city's Fair Chance hiring ordinance, he called such efforts important but incremental steps toward progress.

As Austin recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, Casar believes such foundational change is paramount in protecting Austin's most vulnerable. "When we come out the other side of the pandemic, we can become even more unequal," he said, emphasizing the need for stronger worker protections and job security. The city has a responsibility to create a public jobs program, said Casar, who sees the benefits of Project Connect (Proposition A) as twofold: A comprehensive mass transit system that could create thousands of public jobs. "We need to create a real pipeline from communities that have been hit by the pandemic and are now unemployed or underemployed into union training programs, and then directly putting folks to work in union jobs on these large public infrastructure projects."

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