Former Austin City Council Member Laura Morrison is considering challenging Mayor Steve Adler for the city’s top elected seat next year, as electioneering for the November 2018 city races begins to get into gear.
Morrison said she’s reaching out to various constituents and potential supporters to decide whether to enter the race and hopes to make a decision soon.
“I’m looking at the realistic possibilities of making it a feasible campaign,” she told the American-Statesman last week. “I feel a certain need to make (a decision) sooner, rather than later. November is right around the corner. It would be a tough campaign. I need to be all in.”
Along with Adler, five council members will reach the end of their first terms under the 10-1 district system. Council Members Ora Houston, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Ann Kitchen, Ellen Troxclair and Kathie Tovo are all expected to run for re-election.
Tovo will seek re-election via a petition drive, she said Tuesday, after receiving differing legal opinions as to her eligibility. She is the only member of the council who served a term under the previous at-large system. The city charter limits council members to two consecutive terms, unless their application for a third term has the backing of a petition signed by at least 5 percent of registered voters in the district.
Adler said Tuesday that, without Morrison formally entering the race, it’s too soon to evaluate her as a contender, but he said he’s ready for potential competition. For his part, Adler wants to finish what he’s started, he said, particularly with local versus state battles and with mobility and affordability challenges.
“We’ve been able to move forward on a lot of things over the last few years,” he said. “We’ve been able to build a strong network with other cities within the state and internationally. I bring what I’ve always brought, which is a willingness to work really hard, really focus. I’m proud of the things we’ve done, but there’s still ground to be had.”
While on the council, Morrison was best known for her support among neighborhood groups and her questioning of city growth policies. She contemplated a mayoral bid in 2014, egged on by supporters who created a draftLaura4mayor.com website, but she ultimately chose not to enter the race.
Morrison re-entered the political spotlight last year as one of the leaders of Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice, a group that opposed efforts by Uber and Lyft to overturn Austin’s ride-hailing service rules in a May 2016 special election.
She said last week that she would bring “values and perspective” on city development and affordability issues.
“We need to find a way to move into the future with this growing city so that people living here now don’t have to bear the burden,” she said.
Candidates are still emerging, but here’s a look at the other matchups so far:
Crowded field in District 1
Houston’s race in East Austin’s District 1 could be a crowded one: At least three candidates are already running or seriously considering it. The most visible so far is Lewis Conway Jr., a Grassroots Leadership organizer and criminal justice activist who advocates at City Hall for programs affecting those with criminal records.
Conway was convicted in 1992 of manslaughter for stabbing an acquaintance to death during a fight over stolen money. He kicked off his election announcement Monday with comments from his attorney that, despite his felony conviction, he is eligible to run because he has long since finished all his parole obligations and had his voting rights restored.
He said he would bring a fresh perspective to the council as someone who has radically changed his life. Though he’s known for speaking out on public safety issues, he said his focus is on the conditions that lead to those issues in the first place.
“We want to find every excuse to help people,” he said. “We should be leading on police brutality. We should be leading on mobility improvements. We should be leading on affordability. Investing more in indigent health care.”
District 1 residents Natasha Harper Madison and Mariana Salazar are also considering running, both said Tuesday. Madison, a florist and East Austin activist, said a cancer diagnosis three years ago drew her to public service, including recent work on East 12th Street Merchant Association projects involving zoning and planning.
“I think they’re all great folks,” she said of her new challengers. “They all live in District 1 and I’ve represented them for three years and I’ll continue to represent them next term.”
Challenger emerges in District 8
In Troxclair’s southwestern District 8, Shane Sexton announced his candidacy months ago for the seat. Sexton, the chief of police for Concordia University, said Tuesday that his public safety background was key in a city where public safety makes up the bulk of spending.
He said he agrees with Troxclair that the council taxes and spends too much, but he argued no cuts should come to public safety. He also noted, “I was absolutely one of the people at the Capitol protesting SB 4,” criticizing Troxclair for being the sole council dissenter to its vote to sue the state over its bill banning so-called sanctuary cities.
Troxclair said she was looking forward to running again.
“It’s pretty clear that I represent the voice of fiscal responsibility and making sure that tax dollars are spent effectively,” she said.