José 'Chito' Vela wins Austin City Council District 4 race
North Central Austin has a new City Council member — at least for the next three years.
José “Chito” Vela beat out six competitors Tuesday in a special election to replace the current District 4 council member, Greg Casar, who is vacating the seat to run for Congress.
Vela, who currently works as an immigration attorney at Walker Gates Vela, earned 59% of the vote. All told, 3,613 people voted, which represents about 10% of the district's registered voters.
“I’m just very excited, humbled by the experience and just so thankful to the voters,” Vela told KUT Tuesday night.
As housing prices have skyrocketed in the city, most of the candidates running to represent District 4 identified housing affordability as Austin’s most pressing issue. Vela ran on a campaign of building more housing.
“We need more housing in the city,” Vela told KUT. “Both public housing and market-rate housing. It’s just absolutely so clear from the voters … renters are struggling, first-time homebuyers are unable to purchase homes … that I think was the message that really resonated with the district.”
Vela will be sworn-in on Feb. 4, meaning Casar’s last day in office will be Feb. 3.
According to the biography on his firm’s website, Vela is originally from Laredo. He earned a bachelor’s, master’s and law degree from UT Austin and worked for the Texas Attorney General’s Office and a state representative before forming his own law firm in 2011.
Vela established himself as a frontrunner in the race early on, garnering support from the outgoing council member, several state representatives and public safety unions. He also raised more money than any other candidate, raking in at least $78,000, according to his latest campaign finance report.
Instead of serving the usual four-year term for City Council members, Vela will finish out Casar’s term, which ends January 2025. He will also be representing a district whose boundaries have changed, albeit slightly, from when Casar was first elected; the City of Austin adopted new district maps using 2020 Census data.