Election Ticker: Tidbits From the Campaign Trail
District 3 candidate forum keeps it quick and Celia gets a PAC
Velásquez Maintains Advantage in D3 Forum
Six candidates are a lot to fit into one hour but the League of Women Voters kept things moving at its District 3 candidate forum on Oct. 6. Even with each candidate receiving only six or seven minutes of total speaking time, distinctions were easily drawn and the topics relevant to historic, inner-city D3 were at least touched upon.
The candidates' two-minute opening statements alone took up a good chunk of the program. Front-runner José Velásquez, endorsed by the major labor unions and local Democratic Party leaders, went first, raising the obvious issue – affordability. "It's said right now that you need to make a minimum of $100,000 a year to live comfortably in Austin," he said. "With the median income being about $65,000 and the average price of a home being about $600,000, those numbers don't add up." He said he wants to encourage a "holistic" solution to the housing crisis, expand broadband access, and fund full-day pre-K for D3 residents.
Daniela Silva emphasized that she is the only LGBTQ woman in the race and that she is pro-housing, pro-environment, and pro-choice. Gavino Fernandez Jr., a veteran Chicano activist, pronounced himself "the poor people's candidate," outlining his lifetime of Eastside advocacy. José Noé Elías, also a champion of the poor, described encounters with immigrant families he meets working as a teacher in Montopolis: "I see families who share a one-bedroom apartment even though the parents work multiple jobs." Both he and Fernandez would like to see more housing developed for those making 30% or less of the median family income.
The final two candidates, Yvonne Weldon and Esala Wueschner, had different priorities. Weldon said she wants to address homelessness, crime, and affordability, citing "hundreds and hundreds of assaults and aggravated burglaries" that she blamed on "an extreme leftist progressive movement." Wueschner declared that he didn't want to run for city council but felt he had to: "This city is becoming corrupt because our district attorney, José Garza, is funded by somebody named George Soros, who funds antifa, destroying the city."
In the 40 minutes that remained, the candidates addressed homelessness, policing, and land use. Velásquez consistently provided the most detailed, policy-centered responses. Near the end, the moderator asked the candidates to describe themselves in two words. Velásquez chose "compassionate servant." Weldon: "blessed, persistent." Elías: "teacher, student." Fernandez: "trustworthy, community-oriented." Silva: "service-oriented." Wueschner: "driven." – Brant Bingamon
Celia Gets a PAC
Opportunity ATX PAC was formed Monday, Oct. 3, as a specific-purpose political action committee to raise money on behalf of Celia Israel's mayoral campaign. The SPAC was formed by Elizabeth Bray and Turcan Hockaday, who is serving as the committee's treasurer. Neither of the committee chairs lives in Austin, so they won't be able to actually vote for Israel on Nov. 8. Bray lives in Rollingwood but is active in Austin politics and is already churning out emails to Israel donors in hopes they might also donate to the SPAC. Hockaday appears to have no connection to Texas politics. She currently lives in Baltimore, Md., and works at a small-business and nonprofit consulting firm, according to her campaign treasurer appointment form and a LinkedIn profile that appears to belong to her. Previously, she worked for two years in the compliance division of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which could explain why she was brought in to run finances for Israel's PAC. Presumably, she knows about campaign finance law (Hockaday did not return our calls), though that doesn't mean she knows Austin's intricate web of local campaign finance regulations, which can trip up even our local politicos. – Austin Sanders