Austin city election filing draws large field, last-minute surprises


City clerk: Lewis Conway Jr., a council candidate with a criminal record, must prove he’s eligible to run.

Six candidates apiece have filed to run for District 1 and 3 seats on Austin City Council.

More than two dozen candidates filed by Monday’s deadline to run in mayoral and other Austin City Council elections Nov. 6, including some last-minute surprises.

Lewis Conway Jr., a City Council candidate with a criminal record, might not see his name on November’s ballot after all. On Friday, he received a notice from the city clerk that he needs to prove his eligibility as a candidate.

Conway killed a man in 1991, served his prison sentence and is now a community organizer. He is testing a Texas law that says a felon cannot hold public office unless he has been “otherwise released from the resulting disabilities.”

City Clerk Jannette Goodall said Conway must prove by Tuesday that he meets that criterion, which has never been tested in court. She will have to determine whether completing parole and having his voting rights restored counts.

As expected, Mayor Steve Adler, 62, will try to hold his seat against former Council Member Laura Morrison, 63, in the city’s top race. The candidates have primarily diverged on development issues.

Three last-minute candidates joined that race Monday: Gus Peña, 65, a perennial speaker at council meetings; Alan Pease, 69; and Todd Phelps, 47, a farmer and musician who won 10 percent of votes for the mayor’s seat in 2014.

Travis Duncan, 29, a drummer, and Alexander Strenger, a pedicabbie who called for building a dome around Austin to keep out Californians, also have filed, though Strenger’s application had not been processed by early Monday evening.

District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen appears to be absent a challenger after Nathan White, a 26-year-old administrative assistant who planned to run, said not enough of his petition signatures appeared to be valid.

MORE ON THE MAYOR’S RACE: With Morrison in, expect Austin mayor’s race to heat up

District 1

The race to replace East Austin Council Member Ora Houston, who opted not to run for a second term, already has been busy. Six candidates will seek the position.

Vincent Harding, 30, is a lawyer, a former member of Austin’s Board of Adjustment and a former chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. He called himself successful at building coalitions.

Natasha Harper-Madison, 40, is a small-business consultant drawn to social activism after receiving a cancer diagnosis three years ago. She has been active in the East 12th Street Merchants Association.

Mariana Salazar, 37, is director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition and a former grass-roots organizer in her native Venezuela. She also has worked on behalf of urban farming initiatives and the American Friends Service Committee.

Conway, 48, who will find out this week whether his name will appear on the ballot, works for Grassroots Leadership. He has fought for criminal justice issues, including the city’s “ban the box” ordinance.

Reedy Spigner, 46, is a grant monitor for the Texas attorney general’s office and a third-generation East Austinite. He said he was drawn to politics after a dispute with the city over a historic designation affected the sale of his home.

Mitrah Avini, 29, did not list an occupation on her application and did not return a phone call for comment Monday.

MORE ON D1: Austin Council Member Ora Houston won’t run again, Dem party chair will

District 3

In a crowded East Austin race, all eyes will again be on the sibling rivalry between Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria and his sister, activist Susana Almanza, as they stage a rematch of their 2014 race. Four other candidates also are running.

Renteria, 68, won the seat in the council’s first district-based races, topping a field of 12 candidates. While on the council, he has advocated for more housing stock in the city.

Almanza, 65, is director of the nonprofit advocacy group People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER). She has allied with neighborhood preservationists on various city issues and has spoken out against her brother’s support for increasing density in some areas.

James Valadez, 31, is a real estate agent who sits on the city’s Board of Adjustment and previously served on the Travis Central Appraisal District board. He has called himself opposed to “excess density” in neighborhoods.

Amit Motwani, 40, who launched his campaign Monday, is the chief information officer at United Way for Greater Austin. A newcomer to city politics, he said he believes affordability efforts in the city should focus more on social services, as well as housing.

Jessica Cohen, 46, is a network security administrator and EMT. She would like to see a stronger council focus on preventing rent increases.

Justin Jacobson, 27, a restaurant worker, has worked on political campaigns and with the Stonewall Democrats.

MORE ON D3: Rematch: Susana Almanza will again face brother for City Council spot

District 8

Council Member Ellen Troxclair won’t run for a second term in Southwest Austin, leaving an open seat for one of four candidates. Three of the four fall to the political left of Troxclair, who was known as the council’s only conservative member.

Rich DePalma, 45, is a contracting consultant and a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board. He also has been involved in the Downtown Commission, the Austin school district and the reforestation nonprofit TreeFolks.

Bobby Levinski, 32, is a lawyer for the environmental nonprofit Save Our Springs Alliance and an urban land-use activist best known for his opposition to CodeNext. He previously worked as a policy adviser to three council members.

Paige Ellis, 34, is an environmental marketing specialist. She lists the environment, housing, reproductive rights and gun safety as her top priorities.

Frank Ward, 36, a corporate communications strategist, hopes to pick up Troxclair’s mantle of conservatism. He serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board and has worked for the Republican National Committee.

MORE ON D8: Troxclair, Austin council’s lone conservative, won’t seek re-election

District 9

Council Member Kathie Tovo is facing opposition from three people in Central Austin.

Tovo, 49, is the longest-serving member of the council and collected petition signatures to be able to run for a third term. She is known as a neighborhood preservation advocate.

Danielle Skidmore, 46, is a civil transportation engineer running on a mobility platform. She serves on the city’s LGBTQ Quality of Life Committee and has advocated for equality issues.

Linda O’Neal, 45, is a U.S. history and civics teacher. A native of Vietnam whose parents rented Austin apartments to immigrants, she supports greater housing density.

Isiah Jones, 21, is a University of Texas student who is studying government for his undergraduate degree. His priorities are the decriminalization of marijuana, housing prices in downtown and traffic on Interstate 35, he said.

MORE ON D9: Races grow more crowded ahead of November Austin city elections

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