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Alter, Virden will compete in runoff for District 10

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

As predicted, there will be a runoff in District 10, but in a somewhat surprising turn, the runoff will take place between incumbent Alison Alter and challenger Jennifer Virden.

In order to avoid a runoff, candidates must win a simple majority of the vote, which was a tough hurdle to clear in a race that had votes split among seven candidates. In the end, Alter won 34.20 percent of the vote and Virden 25.43 percent.

Alter was first elected to represent the West Austin district in 2016. This year, she was targeted by political action committees and other candidates for her votes decriminalizing homelessness and “reimagining” public safety.

Virden ran for Council on a promise to be the “fiscally responsible voice on the Austin City Council.” Virden’s website states that she is opposed to a “blanket” rezoning of the whole city and in favor of “maintaining our property values, property rights and for maintaining the precious green space that we have left ‘inside the loop.’” Citing cost, Virden also opposed Project Connect and the “rash, unanimous” vote to reallocate budget funds away from police, and has said she would reinstate a camping ban in the city.

In a phone call with the Austin Monitor, Alter said she was not surprised that she was facing a runoff, given the crowded field.

“I am looking forward to making my case for everything that I have accomplished against a Trump supporter that is out of touch with the district,” she said. “I think we saw with how people voted across the candidates – that people embraced the centrist, democratic approach, which is a reasonable approach to the Land Development Code, investments in our parks, working to address climate change, and providing real public safety.”

She added, “I think in 2020 we’ve learned that we really need to pay attention to who we’re electing and their experience, their ability to get the job done. I am someone who shows up. I do the work, and what you see is what you get from me.”

Alter said she was looking forward to being able to discuss issues during the runoff with just two candidates in the race. “There was a lot of noise with a lot of candidates and there’s just a lot of noise right now, in the time we’re living in,” she said.

Virden was unable to speak with the Monitor on Tuesday night.

Pooja Sethi was the first to challenge Alter for the District 10 seat. The immigration attorney received early support from urbanists hoping for a speedier land code rewrite process and representation that supports more density and housing-forward policy. On Tuesday she won over 18 percent of voters.

Robert Thomas was one of Alter’s loudest critics and a presumed front-runner for the runoff. Thomas opposed Project Connect, advocated for ending homeless camping and touted funding for police. That platform won him just under 17 percent of the vote.

Rounding out the field, Belinda Greene won about 3 percent and Ben Easton about 2 percent of the vote. Noel Tristan, who dropped out of the race last month, won less than 1 percent of the vote.

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