Community Organizing Defines Eastside Races
District 3 goes to run-off
José Velásquez did his election night the Eastside way, with what his campaign team described as an old-school pachanga. You could hear the norteño music down the block. As you approached the site of the party – Velásquez's bungalow on Willow Street in the heart of the Holly neighborhood – you saw 40 or 50 friends and neighbors sitting in chairs in the front yard, eating barbeque and tamales, as the candidate greeted supporters in the driveway.
Some expected Velásquez to win an outright majority in Tuesday's District 3 race – he had the endorsement of most of the Democratic Party establishment. But he will be going to a run-off with community organizer Daniela Silva, who took 34% to Velásquez's 36%, a difference of 422 votes. (José Noé Elías, endorsed by the Statesman, took 11%; Yvonne Weldon, Gavino Fernandez, and Esala Wueschner finished in the rear.) Velásquez noted approvingly that women had done well in this year's races. "It's a beautiful thing, because I have worked my entire adult life to advance and promote chingonas and Latinas," he said. "But – but – we're still gonna pull this thing out."
Silva's event had a markedly different vibe, with several dozen twentysomethings celebrating her strong campaign at a hip bar on Shady Lane. "I think we have shown that people-power campaigns work," Silva told us. "I think people will be excited to see how the candidate who didn't make the most money and didn't have the most endorsements will be able to go toe to toe with the campaign that did."
A mile north, Natasha Harper-Madison was celebrating victory at the Wheel on East MLK. She took 53% of the vote against challengers Misael Ramos, Clinton Rarey, and Melonie House-Dixon. As this reporter was poised to ask an unnecessary question about her easy win, U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Casar, D-Austin, strode into the room. Harper-Madison stood at his side as Casar, who worked alongside Harper-Madison for three years on Council, told the crowd, "What you guys are building here in District 1 is the ground-level organizing that we need to change Texas and thereby the country ... So no matter what you see on TV tonight, know that the much more important news is the news we build five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now."