Progressive Women Rule the South Austin Streets

Ellis takes District 8 as District 5 goes to a run-off

Stephanie Bazan at the Party for the People last month (Photo by Jana Birchum)

In the crowded race to succeed Ann Kit­chen in South Austin's District 5, Stephanie Bazan was the clear front-runner from the moment early votes were counted. Finishing with nearly 30%, she'll go to a run-off with Ryan Alter, who took 24%, beating out Kitchen aide Ken Craig (19%) for second place. Among the also-rans, Bill Welch, a conservative who ran on "common sense" and police funding, Aaron Velazquez Webman, a recent California transplant with the most money in the race, who hammered on camping ban enforcement, and consultant Brian Anderson II.

Craig won the endorsement not only of Kitchen but of most Democratic, labor, and environmental clubs, sharing this paper's endorsement with Alter. However, Alter said, "The voters want something different out of District 5 – Stephanie and I represent an approach that creates more housing throughout the city." Housing and affordability have been key issues throughout all Council races, but Alter offers a detailed, comprehensive plan that speaks to his deep knowledge of land use regulation, cited approvingly by both the Chronicle and the Statesman in their endorsements. His pitch: "The vision I have [is] putting pen to paper with details – people want someone who not only has the right vision, but has the experience to get those things accomplished."

Bazan is also pro-housing, but her success more reflects her deep ties to the broader south side. A former St. Edward's University instructor and a member of the steering committee of the Austin Community Foundation's Hispanic Impact Fund, Bazan has been involved on the ground in myriad ways, from the 2020 census to distributing PPE during the pandemic. Even her choice of election night venue – Waterloo Ice House Southpark Mead­ows – focused attention on an often-­overlooked part of South Austin. "That is my type of leadership," she told the Chronicle. "It's to listen … I don't need ego, I don't need a plan of my own, I need to see what our community wants and how I can support that."

Across Barton Creek, District 8 incumbent Paige Ellis cleaned up with 58% against Republican challenger Richard Smith, who took 28%; two other candidates, Antonio D. Ross and Kimberly P. Hawkins, combined for 13%. In a district that in 2014 opted for GOP ideologue Ellen Troxclair, now a member-elect of the Texas House, Ellis' decisive victory speaks to how successful she's been at getting things done in her first term. In a press release, she listed key accomplishments including authoring the $460 million bond to build new trails and bike lanes (approved two years ago alongside Project Connect) and sponsoring the city's safe gun storage program. "I look forward to bringing common sense decision-making to the dais as we face the challenges ahead," she said in the release.

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