Here are the candidates running to be Austin’s next mayor
If you’re tired of hearing about the face-off between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, maybe it’s time to turn your attention to local elections, like the mayor’s race.
Mayor Steve Adler is fighting to retain his seat against six challengers, most of whom are political newcomers with some wild ideas – including building a dome around Austin to keep out “foreigners and California refugees.” (Uber would pay for it.)
Since he won his first bid for mayor in 2014, Adler has established himself as an earnest mediator – even when, well, his best intentions fall short. In 2016, for example, he tried to broker a last-minute backroom deal with Uber and Lyft, but the rest of City Council could not sign off, and the ride-hailing companies left the city. (Then came back.)
Adler’s biggest threat comes from Laura Morrison, a former Council member and big critic of CodeNEXT, the city’s defunct rewrite of its Land Development Code. Morrison has also been critical of a deal on the table (though not yet finalized) to bring a Major League Soccer team to Austin.
“When you add this fiasco to the CodeNEXT failure, it’s clear that Austin needs new leadership at City Hall,” Morrison wrote in a press release. “We need a mayor who brings the community to the table, works for what is fair and equitable, and plans for growth responsibly.”
But Morrison has quite the monetary hill to climb. By the end of September, Adler collected roughly $713,000, roughly more than six times the amount of campaign money Morrison raised. Adler has also spent more than five times what Morrison has.
The biggest issue that divides them are attitudes about growth in the city. While Adler led Council in voting to scrap CodeNEXT and come up with a new process for overhauling the city’s land code rules, he is supportive of adding denser housing to parts of the city and believes a new code will alleviate some affordability and environmental issues.
Morrison, who talks about “sustaining neighborhood character,” has served as president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, which advocates for protections for single-family neighborhoods. She has called the ending of CodeNEXT a result of “Adler’s failed leadership.”
Five other candidates are on the ballot:
Alexander Strenger, who wants the dome, would legalize marijuana and tax the sale of it.
Gus Peña is a City Council regular, testifying at nearly every Council meeting this reporter has watched on homelessness and veteran services. We couldn’t find a campaign page for Peña, so it’s hard to know exactly where he stands on the issues.
Todd Phelps, a musician and owner of an entertainment production company, lost the mayoral race in 2014. He says he wants to cut property taxes and fee waivers to corporations.
Alan Pease, a writer and former owner of a motorcycle tour company, has served as a member of the city’s Aquatic Advisory Board.
This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photos by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT (left) and Julia Reihs/KUT.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Laura Morrison: Former City Council Member
Mayor Steve Adler: Mayor of the city of Austin, elected in November 2014