Austin City Council member Ora Houston won’t seek re-election


East Austin City Council Member Ora Houston will not seek re-election in November, she said in a statement Wednesday.

First elected to the council in 2014, Houston said she made the decision to leave after “months of personal discernment and conversations with confidants.”

“It has been a joy, privilege and a huge responsibility to represent the ‘blended family’ of District #1,” Houston said in the statement. “Over the next seven months there are major issues to address and votes to take which will impact our city for generations, and the individuals who live here now and in the future.”

She said she decision came from a desire to have more time for her non-City Hall life.

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Only hours after Houston’s announcement, Vincent Harding, outgoing chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, said he would be running for the seat.

“We are at a pivotal moment in Austin’s history: We are 90 years from the 1928, are currently debating a change to our land development code, and while we are routinely ranked as a top place to live, a third of our minority children are growing up in poverty,” Harding said in a news release. “We must do better.”

Harding joins three other candidates who had already announced plans to run for the District 1 council seat. Lewis Conway Jr., a Grassroots Leadership organizer and criminal justice activist, is using his run there to challenge a statewide ban on convicted felons holding public office. Mariana Salazar, director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, and Natasha Harper-Madison, a social activist and small-business consultant, are also contenders.

Houston did not take a side in the race Wednesday.

“I have not gotten to that,” she said.

Houston’s news caught Austin Mayor Steve Adler by surprise, moments after her statement was made public, when he said he had not heard she was not running.

“Ora’s service to the city has been a gift,” Adler said. “She has helped set a culture and awareness on the council for supporting and prioritizing people whose voices are not often heard. She has been a mentor to me, and I and the council will miss her.”

Houston said she would continue to be engaged in city business, but added that her plans include working on her home and checking off her “ABC list — Alaska, Belize and Cuba.”

“I have a whole life ahead of me,” she said Wednesday. “The first thing on my list is to de-clutter my house. I can’t go to the grocery store. I mean, the things I can’t do because I’m here — this is a 24-hour a day job… This has been a wonderful experience and I’m really proud and privileged to have had an opportunity to work for the city of Austin.”

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

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