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Gallo, Alter headed to District 10 runoff

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 by Jo Clifton

In District 10, City Council Member Sheri Gallo and challenger Alison Alter are headed for a December runoff, with Gallo garnering more than 48 percent of the vote to Alter’s 35.52 percent. The other candidates in the race, Robert Walker and Nicholas Virden, received 14.1 percent and slightly more than 2 percent, respectively.

Gallo told the Austin Monitor Tuesday night, “Facing three challengers and tens of thousands of dollars in negative attacks for the past three months, tonight I am honored to be the clear leader in the race for District 10. We have a strong and commanding position in this field, and tomorrow we begin working twice as hard to win this runoff election on December 13. I have to personally thank our volunteers, supporters and the voters. My pledge to everyone in District 10 continues to be standing against tax and fee increases, fighting for a full 20 percent homestead exemption, and remaining laser-focused on affordability and transportation first, while also working to protect our communities and improve our quality of life. I want to thank Rob Walker and Nicholas Virden for running positive, issue-based campaigns, and have enjoyed getting to know both of them. I won a runoff before, and I am totally confident I will win this runoff, too!”

Gallo, a real estate agent, has faced considerable criticism from neighborhoods surrounding the Grove at Shoal Creek planned unit development as well as neighbors close to the Austin Oaks PUD. Some of the most vocal of those critics are members of the Arbor political action committee, which is sponsoring the anti-Gallo website GalloforSale.com as well as the website critical of District 7 candidate Natalie Gauldin, called NeverNatalie.com.

First-time candidate Alter said Tuesday, “I’m excited. I’m ready for the runoff.” She added, “A big majority of voters voted for change at City Hall, and I’m excited to be talking about the issues that matter to my neighbors and the city as a whole.” Between Alter and the other two candidates, Gallo’s opponents garnered 52 percent of the vote.

One of the most important issues for Gallo has been increasing the city’s homestead exemption to 20 percent. That exemption has been increasing slowly, but a majority of her fellow Council members would not support cutting the city budget sufficiently to allow for that amount of exemption.

Gallo has received endorsements from the Austin Police Association, Austin Firefighters Association, Austin-Travis County EMS Association, AURA, the Austin Board of Realtors and the Austin Apartment Association as well as the Central Texas Home Builders Association.

Alter, who gives advice to people looking to make philanthropic donations, was a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board until shortly after she announced her candidacy last summer. When she did that, Gallo, who had appointed her, appointed another person to take her place.

Previously, she was managing director of the Global Initiative for Education and Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin.

This won’t be Gallo’s first runoff. During her first run for office in 2014, Gallo beat longtime community activist Mandy Dealey. Dealey had numerous endorsements from Democratic groups and individuals, but Gallo prevailed with nearly 55 percent of the runoff vote.

Mike Lavigne, a spokesman for Arbor PAC, told the Monitor, “The whole goal here is just to educate voters because we knew that RECA (the Real Estate Council of Austin) and the home builders would have an unlimited budget” to support Gallo and Gauldin.

Walker, who came in third, said he had not yet made a decision about whom, if anyone, he would endorse in the runoff.

As the Monitor has pointed out in the past, District 10 is made up of neighborhoods nestled in the hills west of downtown with names like Tarrytown, Northwest Hills, Rosedale, Jester Estates and Great Hills. It is populated by many of the city’s movers and shakers — people with high-dollar occupations such as doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and families with generational wealth. The district is roughly bound by MoPac Expressway to the east, Lake Austin to the south, U.S. 183 to the north and the boundary with District 6 to the west.

District 10, the most affluent of the city’s districts, produced the largest number of early voters, 30,212, within the group that had Council elections. District 7 came in second with 24,136 early voters, and District 6 came in third with 21,755 early voters.

The district had a 75 percent Anglo population in 2010, although the number has been dropping as Hispanic and Asian-American residents have increased significantly, according to the city website.

The runoff should be no surprise to Monitor readers. According to polls performed by Public Policy Polling for this publication, Gallo had a 42 percent to 25 percent lead over Alter in October, with 21 percent of those polled saying they were undecided. In our previous poll, conducted in September, Gallo had 44 percent and Alter had 23 percent.

Photo by KUT Austin

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