Council Member Sheri Gallo lost her bid for reelection Tuesday night to challenger Alison Alter in a campaign riven by debate over the city’s explosive growth — and resulting traffic woes, housing crunch and skyrocketing property tax bills.
Alter outpaced Gallo by nearly a 2-1 ratio, taking 9,442 of the 14,757 votes cast, according to the tally from the Travis County Clerk’s office.
“The voters of District 10 wanted change and we were able to communicate our message on how we would be representing and leading in the future,” Alter said. “Our message resonated — people want to stop being the victim of growth.”
Alter added that she would like the City Council to postpone consideration of two controversial developments she opposed, but Gallo supported, until she takes her seat on the dais in January.
Gallo became the second incumbent toppled in City Council elections this year. Council Member Don Zimmerman lost his seat in Northwest Austin’s District 6 to Jimmy Flannigan in last month’s general election. Their losses leave District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair as the sole conservative on the council.
Gallo was not immediately available to comment.
The evidence of a bad night for Gallo arrived early, when results showed Alter leading in the early vote by nearly a 2-1 margin, giving her a 3,000 vote cushion that grew as the night wore on.
It was a stunning result: Gallo had outpaced Alter by 12 points in the general election, taking 48 percent of the vote in the four-person race. However, Alter’s energetic base of support allowed her to outpace the incumbent in fundraising during the runoff period.
The battle between Gallo and her one-time appointee to the city parks board focused largely on the side-effects of Austin’s boom.
That debate largely came to focus on two major, controversial developments planned for the West Austin district: The Grove at Shoal Creek, where neighborhoods and the developer, ARG Bull Creek, recently reached a deal over the project that would be located near 45th Street and MoPac; and Austin Oaks, located a few miles north, near Spicewood Springs and MoPac, where the developer and major neighborhood group also came to a compromise.
Alter was a fierce critic of both projects, describing them as “D’s,” while Gallo defended the projects as necessary to help house the city’s booming population.
However, both candidates supported Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million transportation bond, which easily passed this November.
In its closing weeks, the battle added a national flavor, as Alter attempted to position her candidacy as a chance for Austin Democrats to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s recent win. (Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton easily won the district on Election Day).
“My victory is a mandate for us to make sure we’re taking into consideration the unintended consequences of building,” Alter said.