After five months of campaigning and more than $300,000 spent by the two camps, the contentious race to represent West Austin’s District 10 on the Austin City Council will be decided in Tuesday’s runoff.
The race has grown ferocious in its closing weeks as the campaigns of Council Member Sheri Gallo and challenger Alison Alter, a one-time Gallo appointee to the parks board, blanketed mailboxes throughout the district and attended forums to make their closing arguments.
The game for both: Try to turn out as many voters as possible in what is expected to be a low-turnout contest. This is Austin’s only municipal race that went to a runoff this fall.
Gallo had the strongest showing in November’s four-person race, with 48 percent of the vote, just shy of the majority needed to win. However, Alter raised more money during most of the runoff campaign period, the most recent reports show. She also received a $64,000 boost from the city’s public campaign financing fund.
From the get-go, the debate between Alter and Gallo focused on Austin’s explosive growth and how to handle the city’s housing shortage and congestion problems.
That debate centered on two large and contentious planned mixed-use developments: the Grove at Shoal Creek, where developer ARG Bull Creek recently reached a deal with the surrounding neighborhoods, and Austin Oaks, where a deal was also reached between the developer and surrounding neighborhoods that downsized the development by a third.
Alter opposed both projects, saying they warranted “D’s.” Gallo supported both and argued that not growing simply isn’t an option in Austin.
Both, however, favored Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million transportation bond, which easily passed in November.
The two candidates have pursued different strategies in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Though the council race is a nonpartisan election, Alter sought the local Democratic Party’s endorsement and is attempting to tie her campaign to national events. New fliers and advertisements argue that a ballot for her is an opportunity for Austin voters to oppose the recent election of Donald Trump as president.
“Disgusted?” asks one mailer supporting Alter, featuring an image of the president-elect. “Austin Democrats, you can deliver the first blow.”
(Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the vote in District 10 by a 2-1 ratio.)
The Travis County Republican Party has circulated a flier slamming Alter and supporting Gallo as the “only proven fiscal conservative” — even though Gallo previously has bristled at being labeled a Republican.
Meanwhile, the incumbent’s campaign has focused on the challenger. One flier attacked Alter’s attendance as Gallo’s appointee on the Parks and Recreation Board (it claimed she got an F for attendance, which PolitiFact rated as “Pants on Fire”) and Alter’s decision to take public financing for the runoff (it claimed Alter “exploited” a loophole to get the money, which PolitiFact rated as Half-True).
And as the race approaches the finish line, there have been dueling and disputed charges of misdeeds:
An Alter supporter brought an ethics complaint against a Gallo appointee to the Zoning and Platting Commission, charging conflict of interest — but the complaint fell apart after the Statesman found it conflated two similarly named women. A Gallo supporter filed a complaint with the Post Office last week, alleging an unidentified Alter supporter illegally stuffed mailboxes with fliers.
Check out our interactive database of the City Council candidates, including biographies and short videos, at apps.statesman.com/council-candidate-explorer/election/2016.