Wednesday, November 13, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Garza not running for reelection, others eye seat

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who represents District 2 on City Council, announced Tuesday that she would not be seeking reelection in 2020. The announcement is Garza’s next step in her likely run for Travis County Attorney.

As the deadline for filing for office on the March primary ballot is Dec. 9, that is Garza’s deadline to officially throw her hat in the ring for the post being vacated by Travis County Attorney David Escamilla.

Two prospective candidates are already considering a run for the District 2 seat – David Chincanchan and Vanessa Fuentes.

Chincanchan, who has served as chief of staff for Council Member Pio Renteria since Renteria took office nearly five years ago, told the Austin Monitor Tuesday that he was taking a leave of absence from his City Hall job to get ready to run for the seat Garza is vacating.

Fuentes, who works for the American Heart Association and serves as secretary for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, put out a statement saying she has “received numerous calls from my neighbors in Southeast Austin,” encouraging her to run for Council. She said that over the coming weeks, she would be trying to figure out “if this campaign is right for me and my family and right for Southeast Austin.”

Garza, the first Latina to serve on Council, told the Monitor she is particularly proud of her role in changing the way the city elects its Council, from all at-large to the current 10-1 system, one of her achievements before running for Council.

She also enumerated accomplishments and issues important to her District 2 constituents. Garza, a former firefighter, recognized how badly people in the Del Valle/Moore’s Crossing area needed a new fire station. Even though residents of the area were paying higher insurance rates because they lacked a nearby fire station, a new station was not slated for construction for 10 to 20 years, Garza said. But after a strong push from Garza and her colleagues, the station is expected to open next May or June.

Garza also said she was proud of her work to get bond funding for a health clinic in Southeast Austin and the fact that there will be a child care facility in the new Municipal Court building in Southeast Austin. Then there are the basics, such as sidewalks, that the community has needed for a long time.

Garza said she learned a lot as a firefighter about people’s needs. “You know when you walk into people’s homes and you’re doing CPR on somebody and you see they’ve fallen through the cracks – and some of that has to do with the criminal justice” system, which is disproportionately hard on the poor.

As a member of the Council Judicial Committee, Garza said, she and her colleagues revamped the way they appointed Municipal Court judges. The new system included consideration of whether judges were incarcerating people simply because they could not pay their fines. Along with Council Member Greg Casar and co-sponsors, Garza said Council instituted a “cite and release” policy so fewer people would go to jail. She was also a major proponent of Council’s decision to stop arresting homeless people for sitting or camping on public sidewalks.

Chincanchan, who is nearly 30 years old, has lived in District 2 since the age of 6. He attended the University of Texas at San Antonio for the first year of college, his only year away from Austin since childhood, and returned to finish his education at UT Austin, he told the Monitor.

He has worked for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, and was an intern for Congressman Lloyd Doggett before becoming Renteria’s campaign manager. After that successful campaign, Chincanchan became Renteria’s chief of staff.

Fuentes is also a graduate of UT Austin and has served as president of the Young Women’s Alliance, state representative for the State Board of Directors for the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, and is an active member of the Junior League of Austin. In addition, she serves as a representative of District 2 on the city’s Tourism Commission.

She shared Tuesday that she is getting married on New Year’s Eve to Curtis Smith, chief of staff for state Rep. Terry Canales. Fuentes said she is particularly proud of her work to turn out the vote in Del Valle.

Garza easily trounced her opponents in 2014 and 2016, but her road to victory in the county attorney’s race could prove more difficult. Other candidates in the Democratic primary include former County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Denton, criminal defense attorney Dominic Selvera and Assistant County Attorney Laurie Eiserloh. Garza has the support of a political action committee called Progressive Justice Now, started by several of her colleagues, with Casar in the lead, and community activists Martha Cotera and Brian McGiverin. McGiverin, who is treasurer of the committee, is an attorney who has worked for Garza.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Delia Garza: Mayor Pro Tem and Austin City Council member for District 2

District 2: District 2 is primarily south and east of Ben White Boulevard and east of Interstate 35. Its two major landmarks are Austin Bergstrom International Airport and the Circuit of the America’s Formula 1 race track. Its eastern edge blends into the southeast portions of Travis County.

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