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Chad Swiatecki is a 20-year journalist who relocated to Austin from his home state of Michigan in 2008. He most enjoys covering the intersection of arts, business and local/state politics. He has written for Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Daily News, Texas Monthly, Austin American-Statesman and many other regional and national outlets.
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Tight D8 race headed to runoff to fill Troxclair’s seat
The City Council seat for Southwest Austin is headed for another runoff to determine new representation for District 8, with incomplete results Wednesday morning pointing to newcomers Paige Ellis, who won 30.5 percent of the vote, and Frank Ward. who won 24.7 percent, set for a Dec. 11 race.
Ellis and Ward won the top two spots in a four-person race for the seat that is open because Council Member Ellen Troxclair opted not to run for the seat she narrowly won in 2014. Candidates Bobby Levinski (22.93 percent) and Rich DePalma (21.86 percent) came in third and fourth, respectively, in the race that saw less than 10 percentage points separate the top and bottom vote-getters.
Ward and Ellis bring largely differing positions to the runoff election. Ellis, a public involvement specialist for a local environmental firm, has come out in support of progressive causes, access to health care and equity in public resources.
Ward, who has touted his experience working in state and federal Republican administrations, has promoted lowering taxes on property and bringing greater accountability to the city’s budgeting process to reduce waste.
Ellis said affordability and traffic concerns were the biggest issues she heard about from voters during her campaign. She said she hopes to find a balance between adding more housing to improve affordability and protecting Austin’s natural resources.
“As someone who works in environmental consulting, I want to make sure we handle these issues in a way that helps the people who want to live here and enjoy the city, while we protect the environment at the same time,” she said. “I’m relatively new to politics and knew I’d be running more of a grassroots campaign, and those are the issues that resonated with Democrats in Southwest Austin.”
Ellis said she hopes to work with Levinski, DePalma and other Democrats in the area to produce a large turnout for the runoff, something she admitted didn’t happen in 2014 when Troxclair defeated Ed Scruggs by less than 1 percent.
“We are so fired up to turn out the Democratic vote in a runoff this year, because in 2014 we lost this seat by a small number of votes because turnout was a problem, and we are not going to let that happen again,” she said. “It’s a matter of communicating to Democrats that there’s a runoff happening, and that their voice matters.”
Ward said he hopes his conservative viewpoints won’t put him as the only “no” vote on Council resolutions – a position Troxclair often found herself in – and that he wants to work with other Council members to find ways to keep property taxes from doubling every few years.
“I want to be a consensus builder,” he said. “There’s a perception that Southwest Austin is a wealthy district, and nearly 70 percent of the residents in our district are homeowners so there’s a perception that it’s a largely prosperous district. There are still a lot of people out there trying to make ends meet and working really hard for the opportunities they have, and when you look at the policies coming out of City Hall they are harmful to a lot of people across the city. We can and must get property taxes under control.”
Ward added that his pitch to rein in and possibly lower taxes has resonated with the fiscally conservative voters he predicts will be easy to get to the polls in December.
“My message has been emphatically about addressing the affordability crisis in Austin,” he said. “When you look at it, it’s a human issue and the voters across Southwest Austin found that was a message that resonated. Because of that I feel confident that we know where our voters are and we’ll be able to turn them out when the runoff comes.”
Troxclair has strongly supported Ward to succeed her as the lone conservative voice on City Council.
“Frank’s message of working to lower property taxes, focusing on real traffic solutions, and supporting our police officers is clearly resonating with the residents of Southwest Austin,” she said via text. “He would be our voice of reason at City Hall and I look forward to continuing to help him earn the trust of voters throughout the runoff.”
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
District 8: District 8 contains three distinct neighborhoods, Oak Hill, Circle C and Travis Country. The district is bounded on the east by Brodie Lane, on the south by the Travis-Hays county line, on the north by Bee Cave road and on the west by the winding Austin city limits line. It also has the city’s biggest and most infamous traffic bottleneck – the Oak Hill Y, the convergence of US 290 and SH 71, squeezing traffic heading to and from South MoPac Boulevard and out into the Hill Country.