City Council Member Ellen Troxclair will not seek a second term, she said in a news release issued Wednesday, setting up an open race to replace Austin’s only conservative City Council member.
“I can leave knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do — serve as an advocate for my district, a voice of reason, a fiscal watchdog, an unwavering voice for lowering the cost of living and a representative of the average Austinite who often feels overlooked at City Hall,” she said in the release.
The release gave no specific reason for her decision, but Troxclair said in a text message that, like others in Austin, she’s “worried about raising a family and earning a living.”
A real estate agent who has given birth to two daughters during her 3½ years on the council, Troxclair recently returned from maternity leave. She said she has no plans to run for another office and hopes a candidate will step forward in the District 8 race whom she can support. Three progressives have so far said they will run for the seat.
“It’s been an honor to serve for four years, but I never set out to be a career politician, and it’s time to step aside and let someone else carry the torch,” she said.
Troxclair won Southwest Austin’s District 8 seat by the narrowest margin of the 2014 council races. Her victory came in the first year of the 10-1 district-based approach to representation, designed to bring more geographic, ideological and racial diversity to the City Council.
A former aide to state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, Troxclair has been the farthest right, politically, of the council members since progressives replaced Don Zimmerman and Sheri Gallo last year. She drew support from constituents who appreciated her pleas for tax relief, but angered her colleagues when she lobbied at the Capitol for the Legislature to overturn local measures.
She said she is proudest of successfully pushing proposals to increase the city’s property homestead exemption to 10 percent, to give residents a method to lessen water bill spikes, to allocate hotel taxes to parks and historic sites, and to provide funding for infrastructure in her district.
“I want to thank Ellen for her service and her sincere commitment to serving the City and the residents of her district,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a text message Wednesday. “She was an integral part of the historic 10:1 Council and helped create a legacy that will always be remembered. She told me that she recognizes that she still has six more months of serious work to do.”
Five City Council seats and the mayor’s seat are up for election this year. Council Member Ora Houston announced last month that she will not run again in District 1.
Three candidates to the left of her have announced plans to run in Troxclair’s district: Rich DePalma, a contracting consultant and member of the Parks and Recreation Board; Bobby Levinski, an environmental lawyer and activist opposed to the CodeNext rewrite of land-use rules; and Paige Ellis, an environmental marketing specialist.
Mark Littlefield, a local political pollster and consultant, said he had expected Troxclair to get the most votes in the race and end up in a runoff with one of the Democrats. But the path to victory for another Republican would be more difficult in the current political climate, he said.
“What I told people in 2016 was, ‘Ellen is going to be really tough to beat when she runs for re-election in 2018,’” he said. “She’s proven to be a great campaigner. … Almost every year, she’s had money left over in her account. She donated to local parks. She was responsive to her constituents. Man, she was doing everything right.
“But then I would preface it by saying, ‘Unless Donald Trump wins, ha ha ha.’”
Troxclair said in her news release that she plans to stay involved in politics and hopes to support local fiscal conservatism.
“Austin continues on an unsustainable path,” she said. “Constant over-taxation, over-regulation, lack of prioritizing basic infrastructure needs and implementing policies that are detrimental to our economy will continue to push families and businesses out of our city.
“It is heartbreaking to watch a city that I love race to become a place where the average person cannot afford to live.”