Council Race To Replace Ora Houston Headed To Runoff
With less than a percentage point separating them, Natasha Harper-Madison and Mariana Salazar will advance to a December runoff election for East Austin’s District 1 seat.
As of 1:26 a.m., Salazar had 5,673 votes (or 26.01 percent). Harper-Madison was 204 votes behind at 5,469 (25.07 percent).
“I’m feeling grateful and empowered,” Salazar said at her election watch party. “I was the underdog in the race. The Austin Chronicle endorsed other people, and not only did they endorse other people, they forgot to even mention me.”
Salazar raised significantly less money than the other two top contenders, Harper-Madison and Vincent Harding, who finished in a close third with 5,057 votes (23.2 percent). As of a week before the election, Harding had raised roughly $80,000, Harper-Madison had raised $31,000 and Salazar raised just under $17,000.
The campaign succeeded due to dedicated volunteers and hard work, Salazar said. “We don’t have any paid staff. These are my block-walking shoes,” she added, showing off the worn down soles of her sneakers.
Harper-Madison was thrilled with the results. “I am so pumped,” she said. "I want to do this collective work to make this district the best it can be and the city the best it can be.”
Harding was considered an early frontrunner because of his strong fundraising and support from influential leaders in the community, notably current District 1 Council Member Ora Houston, who chose not to seek reelection.
Speaking to the Austin Monitor early in the evening, Harding said he felt good about the effort regardless of the outcome. “I feel pretty good. We knocked on tens of thousands of doors and made phone calls, and now it’s up to the city of Austin to decide. The only campaign promise I made was to do the right thing,” he said.
In a distant fourth place was Lewis Conway Jr. at 11.5 percent. Conway ran on an avowedly socialist platform and received the backing of the Austin Democratic Socialists of America. Conway has long been involved in criminal justice reform advocacy and emphasized the issue in his Council campaign. Conway spent eight years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.
Conway said his campaign connected with people who had traditionally felt excluded from the process. “We’re giving folks a voice,” he said.
Mitrah Avini and Reedy Spigner finished in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Avini got 9.4 percent of the vote and Spigner got 4.9 percent. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Harper-Madison and Salazar have similar positions on issues. They are both progressives who emphasize the need for increased housing and see allowing greater urban density as an important strategy to increase affordability and facilitate public transit. They contrast strongly with the Council member they are vying to replace.