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Ellis handily wins District 8 election

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Paige Ellis won the runoff for Southwest Austin’s District 8 City Council seat Tuesday night, defeating Frank Ward with 56 percent of the vote in a race that drew considerably fewer voters than the Nov. 6 election.

Ellis received 6,115 votes and Ward received 4,799, for a total of 10,914 votes cast in District 8 in the runoff, according to unofficial results from Travis County. In last month’s election, Ellis received 9,689 votes, or 30.5 percent of the 31,757 total votes cast.

Ellis ran as the Democrat she is and Ward ran as the Republican he is. In a year in which Democrats, especially women, excelled at the ballot box, Ellis defeated two other Democrats, Bobby Levinski and Rich DePalma, in November. Following that election, both of them endorsed her, as did the Travis County Democratic Party, labor groups and the Austin-Travis County EMS employees political action committee.

Ellis, a straightforward environmentalist, will join 10 other Democrats on the dais. District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan defeated Republican Don Zimmerman two years ago, and District 10 Council Member Alison Alter defeated Sheri Gallo, who was not clearly a Republican, though clearly not a Democrat either.

Ellis told the Austin Monitor Tuesday night, “I know policywise I will always have the environment coming first. Hopefully we’ll be able to manage it as we accommodate growth in the city.” She continued, “This is a big win for Southwest Austin. I have felt that this is a progressive area of town. We care about the environment, we care about our community. And the voters showed that they believe that as well.”

Ellis added that her former opponents, including Ward, also care about the community. “They all are great public servants. They have their heart in the right place and I hope that we can all work together moving forward to make Southwest Austin as great as it can be.”

Ward was endorsed by the Travis County Republican Party, the Austin Board of Realtors and political action committees for the Austin Police Association and Austin Firefighters.

Jim Wick, Mayor Steve Adler’s campaign manager, said the vote for Ellis was a good showing for Democrats in Southwest Austin and indicative of a demographic shift. The southwest part of the city, he said, is “more liberal than it’s ever been.”

Mark Littlefield, a political consultant who lives in District 8 and worked for Ellis as a volunteer, said Tuesday night that he could not forget what happened four years ago when Ellen Troxclair defeated another Democrat, Ed Scruggs, by just 57 votes. Those 57 votes haunted Littlefield. On Tuesday, he said he made 58 phone calls to people in District 8 urging them to vote for Ellis.

Ward could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but during the campaign he emphasized his differences with other current Council members, except for Troxclair, Council’s only Republican. Troxclair endorsed Ward early on, urging her constituents to replace her with another conservative.

Ward said his No. 1 goal was reducing property taxes and raising the homestead exemption.

Speaking at the League of Women Voters forum last month, Ward noted that he had been in favor of Proposition K, which proposed an audit of the entire city but failed at the ballot box. “Frankly, I think we’ve got a lot of elements of government here that are broken, that need fixing, that need addressing,” he told the audience.

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