Chronicle Endorsements for the District 4 Special Election

Our choice to replace Greg Casar's unexpired term

We Endorse: José "Chito" Vela and Monica Guzmán

Vela is the clear front-runner in this seven­-way District 4 special election – he's the strongest all-around candidate, has an appropriately diverse professional and volunteer background, distinguished himself both as a city planning commissioner and as a 2018 candidate for Texas House, and would align most often on most issues with the votes taken by outgoing Council Mem­ber Greg Casar, who has endorsed him and who we've endorsed three times for Coun­cil. (Stay tuned for our primary endorsements next month to see if Casar maintains the streak in his run for Congress.) Vela, an immigration and criminal defense attorney with his own practice, also has the strongest campaign backing to date in terms of fundraising and endorsements and might potentially win this race without a run-off, which is unlikely for any of the other six.

And yet, we also want to be (and want readers to be) mindful of what's at stake for the actual residents of this landlocked, low-turnout, largely lower-income, majority-Latino district dominated by renters and apartments. (The district changes some in the recent Council redistricting, but this special is being held with the old 2014 lines.) Vela's interests, politics, and issues appear to be a good fit for D4, but Guzmán has spent more than a decade as a hardworking everyday advocate for people in D4 who will need one on Council even more than they do now, and her skills and track record are sufficient to earn her our rare dual-endorsement nod here.

Of the other five candidates, Melinda Schiera impressed us the most with how she's taken what she's learned as a neighborhood leader with a focus, like Guzmán, on improving community engagement, and processed them into a rationale for office; we also appreciate her level of commitment to making sure Project Connect brings the right kind of opportunities to her North Austin community. Jade Lovera's campaign isn't as insightful but nor is she wasting D4's time; the same can't quite be said of single-issue anti-homelessness campaigner Amanda Rios, who wants to be the Save Austin Now-approved candidate in a race that shows no sign of either needing or wanting one, and in which SAN itself has yet to get involved. Isa Boonto and Ramesses II Setepenre round out the field.

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