Election Ticker: Money, Mayors, and Musgraves

Cash, beer, and Beto rule everything around us

City Council District 3 candidates during the Oct. 18 Austin Monitor forum (Screenshot via the Austin Monitor)

Ships Full of Silver Lie Silently in Wait

The 30-day-out campaign finance reports that were due last week peg the cash-on-hand sweet spot for a viable City Council candidate at around $40,000 to $60,000, a level attained by Ryan Alter, Stephanie Bazan, Ken Craig, Linda Guerrero, Natasha Harper-Madison, José Velásquez, and the oddly well-funded Aaron Webman. Paige Ellis has about twice that and will likely not need it, and Ben Leffler has more than $80,000; his fellow District 9 urbanists have not been nearly so successful and as of this snapshot would be hard-pressed should they make a run-off with Leffler or Guerrero. The things that candidates spend money on directly – staff salaries, credit card transaction fees, snacks – tend at this point in a campaign to be fixed. (Blind item! Which City Council candidate charged 37 Uber trips and three out-of-town plane tickets to his campaign?)

Outside spending is now poised to flow into last-minute media and field blitzes to either avoid a run-off or prepare the way for one; each of these gets its own filing when it happens. The cash for such things is pooling right now in a handful of political action committees such as Restore Leadership ATX, the City Accountability Project, and Stand Together Austin, the last of which raised $300,000 in three months and had $200,000 left in its 30-day report. It indicates it supports Kirk Watson for mayor, but he has $800,000 cash on hand and his own treasure chest of $1.2 million rolled from his Texas Senate account into a new PAC – he can't really use that on his own race, but he can drop a cashbomb to, say, support the city housing bond ($15,000 so far), and money is fungible.  – Mike Clark-Madison

Highlights of This Week's Mayoral Debate

O'Rourke's appearance during Musgraves' ACL show

All six mayoral candidates appeared at the Oct. 18 debate hosted by KVUE and the Statesman – Anthony Bradshaw, Phil Brual, Celia Israel, Gary Spellman, Jennifer Virden, and Kirk Watson – and the conversation offered some fun and fiery moments. Israel got a chance to show her claws, so to speak, when Bradshaw ridiculously said he'd "never seen a safe abortion." Israel shot back, "In the nine years I've been in the Texas Legis­lat­ure, I've had enough mansplaining to last me a lifetime." The pro-transit candidates also revealed they hardly use it themselves when asked when last they'd taken a bus (Israel said from the airport during the pandemic, Watson said just before the pandemic).

The lightning rounds revealed that every candidate except Virden supported the $350 million housing bond that'll be on the ballot Nov. 8 (although Bradshaw's answer was delayed, as if he was thinking about this for the very first time) and that everyone plans to run again in 2024, except Bradshaw, who said, "I'm not saying." When asked about easing concerns of commuters who want to take cars rather than public transit, Israel said: "People are not anti-transit, they're anti-inefficiency," and when pressed about serving people who want to drive cars, she said, "Let's get more people out of their way." Virden said we need to expand high-volume roads, get maximum state investment from TxDOT and improve light synchronization, and "use common sense." Watson: "We need to make sure I-35 functions better" and make sure the existing $750 million in bond money is put to use in a transparent way. The next major forum for the mayoral contenders will be this evening, Oct. 20, at City Hall.  – Maggie Q. Thompson

District 3 Candidates Talk Housing Bond, AE Rate Increase

With early voting on the horizon, District 3 Council candidates went head-to-head in a Oct. 18 forum hosted by the Austin Monitor and KUT, focusing largely on issues of affordability and equity, including Proposition A, homelessness, and public transportation, in addition to police oversight. The six candidates opened the forum with their pitches to the voters of D3, reiterating stances previously heard during the Oct. 6 forum.

On Proposition A, the $350 million affordable housing bond, Yvonne Weldon and Esala Wueschner said they do not support the measure. Weldon said she does believe the city needs additional housing, but that housing "isn't gonna solve the affordability issue," while Wueschner expressed how disabled populations should have additional access to housing but he doesn't believe the general population should have "passes" coming from taxpayer money. Candidates José Velásquez, Daniela Silva, Gavino Fernandez Jr., and José Noé Elías all voiced their support for the proposition, with Velásquez, one of the front-runners, saying Austinites "needed it 10 years ago."

The forum closed with candidates discussing how Austin Energy can improve and work to reduce the community's energy bills. Elías slammed rate increases for hurting working families who already struggle to afford life in Austin and called on the department to reconsider their budget so that rate increases can be "a last resort."  – Ali Juell

The Rest of the Ticker

Mayoral candidates and District 9's many contenders in the critical race to replace Kathie Tovo will all speak their piece in another set of streamed candidate forums tonight in Council chambers at City Hall at 301 W. Second. You can submit questions to forum@lwvaustin.org or by calling 512/451-6710. D9 folks start at 6pm, and mayoral candidates follow at 7:30pm... That silly guy Beto O'Rourke made some headlines during Weekend Two of ACL Fest when, during Kacey Musgraves' performance, she said she could use a beer. O'Rourke brought one to her, she took a couple sips, and then he kindly carried it offstage... Speaking of celebrity endorsements, for what they're worth, Hamilton star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda got to work this week appearing at rallies for O'Rourke and attorney general candidate Rochelle Garza. At O'Rourke's event, Miranda spoke about how unlikely it was that he'd end up on Broadway. "It only seems impossible until it's done," Miranda said, per the Houston Chronicle. "We're going to make him the next governor of Texas."

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November 2022 Elections, Kirk Watson, Celia Israel, Jennifer Virden

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