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New City Council candidates emerge

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 by Jo Clifton

There were just two surprise City Council candidates when the filing deadline passed at 5 p.m. Monday – one in District 10 and one in District 4 – for the five seats on the November ballot. There are only 14 candidates in all, including the five incumbents elected in 2014, compared to the 78 candidates for the 11 Council seats in 2014, when so many people were excited about the new district system.

District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo now has three opponents, instead of the two that she had last week. And District 4 Council Member Greg Casar has two opponents, instead of just one.

The surprise entry into Gallo’s race was Robert ‘Rob’ Walker, a certified public accountant with his own firm. Also filing officially for the District 10 seat on Monday was Alison Alter, a financial consultant and former member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.

Walker, 69, said this is his first run for political office except for a race to be a Republican precinct committeeman in Houston in 1972, which he said was successful. Walker said he is interested in dealing with traffic problems, creating more dedicated bicycle and pedestrian trails and planting more trees.

The other candidate in the District 10 race is Nicholas Virden, 23, who previously told the Austin Monitor that he wanted to target fiscal waste and “make Austin a more tech-friendly community.”

Casar’s new opponent is Gonzalo Camacho, a 43-year-old 53-year-old traffic engineer. Camacho’s Twitter feed shows that he has an interest in 9/11 conspiracy theories as well as the killings of African-Americans by police officers and a consistent distaste for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (His Twitter handle is @gonzalo_camacho.) He did not respond to a request for comment from the Monitor. He is a former Republican precinct chair.

The other person in the District 4 race is Louis Herrin, who ran against Casar in 2014 and came in seventh in the field. Like Camacho, he is serving as his own campaign treasurer. Herrin reported raising zero dollars in the campaign finance report filed earlier this summer. Casar, on the other hand, reported raising about $79,000.

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza has two opponents this year: Wesley Faulkner and Casey Ramos. Neither of these candidates seems likely to give Garza a run for her money, but she’s not taking the race for granted.

Faulkner works for the domain registrar company Namecheap. Ramos is a boxer, and his father is his campaign treasurer.

District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman has just one opponent, the same man he faced in the 2014 runoff: Jimmy Flannigan. Zimmerman has worked hard to demonstrate to his constituents that he cares about their needs, but he has alienated various members of the community, often without apparent provocation. This race could very well hinge on the number of Democrats and Republicans who turn out to vote on the top of the ticket.

In District 7, Council Member Leslie Pool faces just one opponent, Natalie Gauldin, one of the founders of Friends of the Grove. The proposed Grove at Shoal Creek development is of course one of the hottest issues Council will have to deal with in September. Pool has done everything she can to fight the development, and Gauldin will have to show that her candidacy is bigger than the Grove if she wants to get any traction.

Photo: Alison Alter files paperwork at City Hall to run for City Council.

This story has been corrected to reflect that Gonzalo Camacho is 53 years old, not 43, and that he is a former, not current, Republican precinct chair.

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