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https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2022-12-09/election-ticker-say-it-aint-so-zo/

Election Ticker: Say It Ain’t So, Zo

Qadri explains his GOP gigs, Guerrero explains her housing views

By the News Staff, December 9, 2022, News

Is Elizabeth Warren-endorsed Council District 9 candidate Zo Qadri a secret Republican, or was he just an ambitious political kid? Does his opponent Linda Guerrero really think Austin (let alone District 9) has enough market-rate housing, and if so, why? The campaign for the central-city district has gotten edgier.

Guerrero's campaign sent out a media release last week that pointed to stints in Qadri's résumé that don't jibe with his super-progressive campaign message. These included working for then-Attorney General Greg Abbott's campaign and for then-U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, and for Libertarian Gary Johnson's presidential bid in 2016.

Qadri told us he "never worked to elect Greg Abbott or for Texans for Greg Abbott." Guerrero's source is a personal-records website called truthfinder.com, which produced a résumé that lists the Texans for Abbott job. Qadri acknowledges the Farenthold and Johnson jobs, and said the Abbott line may refer to remote work he did for "someone I met from Farenthold's office who asked for help pulling a list of [Asian] groups and helping some constituents ... I think that person was connected to the Republican Party of Texas though truthfully, it was so quick I don't really remember more than that."

Qadri's father died in 2013, prompting the then-22-year-old to move back to Victoria, in Farenthold's congressional district, so he could be closer to his mom. While there, he said, he sought political work and had few options in the deep-red district, so when offered a job in Farenthold's office, he took it. Qadri says he worked as an unpaid intern for two or three months on constituency services and veterans affairs.

In 2016, Qadri said, the Johnson for Pres­ident campaign did outreach in his childhood mosque, which prompted Qadri and other members of the mosque to work for the Libertarian Party nominee, the former governor of New Mexico. Qadri says he was paid a $750 stipend for that work and took the job to bleed support away from Donald Trump. "We were organizing out of survival and fear of what a Trump presidency would mean for Muslims." Those fears were confirmed in January 2017 when an arsonist burned down the mosque Qadri attended as a child, the same day that former President Trump issued his travel ban on Muslim nations. Since 2017, Qadri says, his campaign work has been for progressive candidates (including Warren's presidential campaign in 2020).

Meanwhile, Qadri told us Austin "definitely" has a housing shortage, which is just about an established fact (the entire U.S. has a housing shortage). Guerrero suggested to KUT in a Dec. 2 story that Austin may be building enough housing – referring to data showing Austin is one of the nation's hottest construction markets for multifamily, mostly on the edges of town. "There's a lot of new housing being built, but not enough that is affordable," Guerrero told us. "The most important policy is to build housing that people can afford, which will most likely need to be on city land."

"A lot is not enough" is how we summarized a presentation from longtime Austin economic analyst Jon Hockenyos to Council a year ago. Unless Austin increases housing supply at all levels, from subsidized to luxury, Hockenyos told Council, the city's housing crisis would soon become a workforce crisis. – Austin Sanders

Watson's GOP Friends

On Monday, Dec. 5, the Celia Israel campaign issued a call for her mayoral opponent Kirk Watson to disavow the endorsement he received from Travis County Republican Party Chair Matt Mackowiak, now an archvillain to many in the city for leading the GOP and police union front group Save Austin Now. On Dec. 1 on Facebook, Mackowiak announced his intention to vote for Watson, saying, "Celia Israel would be a disaster." She responded, "Mackowiak's support for my opponent only confirms that he and I are running to serve different Austins. A Matt Mack­owiak endorsement signals that Kirk Watson has no intention to stand up for the values of our city." Watson is unlikely to see a problem with GOP leaders signaling their support, since that differentiates him from Israel, but it's hilarious that Mackowiak is still that toxic, a year after being soundly whipped by Austin voters who rejected SAN's police staffing plan by more than 2-to-1. Back in October, local journalist Jack Craver reported that about $120,000 of the then-$300,000 fundraising haul of the Watson-supporting Stand Togeth­er Austin political action committee came from people who'd also contributed to Mack­ow­iak's campaigns. In a Wednesday email to supporters, Watson – laughing at a different pro-Israel ad's photo edit of him with Trump – reminded everyone just how Democratic he is while noting "I welcome support in this run-off from all Austinites – Democrats, Republicans, independents, and anyone who believes that our next mayor should have a proven record of getting things done" (emphases his). – Mike Clark-Madison

More Campaign Cash ...

Stand Together is so far the big spender in the run-off among political committees, having plunked down just shy of $95,000 as of the Dec. 5 finance report to go after Israel, augmenting Watson's own $335,000 in spending since Nov. 8. While Watson has access to more cash if he needs it, so far Israel's not that far behind, with $178,000 in spending of her own and about $46,000 in supportive PAC spending, mostly by Equity PAC, formed to oppose Save Austin Now last year and now preparing for a May campaign for its Austin Police Oversight Act.

The only Council candidate with reported PAC spending on her behalf is Linda Guer­rero (just over $27,000, from several small PACs), whose campaign reported $77,000 in spending, compared to $34,000 by Zo Qadri. Both D3's José Velásquez and D5's Ryan Alter reported around $100,000 in spending, which is three times that of Alter's opponent Stephanie Bazan and four times that of D3 candidate Daniela Silva. – M.C.M.

(A Little) Early Voting

In the first six days of early voting (as of Tuesday, Dec. 6) in the run-off, only 37,248 Travis County voters had cast their ballots, or about 6% – that's only 11,905 more than on Oct. 24, the first day of early voting for the Nov. 8 election. You've still got today and tomorrow, Dec. 8-9, to cast an early ballot. – Maggie Q. Thompson

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