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Who’s running for the District 4 seat?

Friday, December 17, 2021 by Jo Clifton

As of the Thursday afternoon deadline, seven candidates had filed valid ballot applications for the Jan. 25 election to fill the District 4 City Council seat being vacated by Council Member Greg Casar.

Casar, who is running for Congress, released a statement endorsing José “Chito” Vela for the Council seat. Casar said, “I know that Chito will be a champion for increasing affordable housing, investing in public transportation, and protecting our environment. He’ll show up for working families, and that’s why he has my vote.”

Also vying for a District 4 spot on Council are Monica Guzmán, Jade Lovera, Amanda Rios, Melinda Schiera, Ramesses II Setepenre and Isa Boonto-Zarifis. Guzmán and Setepenre have run for the seat in previous years against Casar. Setepenre ran in 2020, coming in third with 8.4 percent of the vote, while Guzmán ran in 2014, garnering just 6.6 percent of the vote. When she filed her campaign treasurer designation, Guzmán, policy director for Go Austin/Vamos Austin, indicated that she would not accept more than $930 in political contributions or spend more than that amount on her campaign. Lovera is the founder of the Women Who Werk Foundation.

Schiera is the mother of two children, a 1-year-old and a 6-year-old. According to her website, Schiera promises to give 10 percent of her Council salary to nonprofits and/or schools in District 4. She told the Austin Monitor that the most important issue facing District 4 is addressing rezoning on North Lamar north of 183. Although there is a lot of multifamily housing on North Lamar already, Schiera said, “I do think that in order to increase density there would need to be some redevelopment of commercial property.” Rios is aligned with Save Austin Now, which successfully campaigned for reinstatement of the city’s camping ban last spring but failed in an effort this fall to force the city to substantially increase hiring of police officers.

This is how Setepenre describes his 2020 campaign on Facebook: “My candidacy wasn’t about winning or losing … My candidacy was about political representation – people need to step up and represent themselves.” The Austin Monitor could not reach him for comment on Thursday. Boonto-Zarifis could not be reached for comment but listed her occupation as artist/educator.

Vela came close to winning a seat in the Texas House in 2018 but lost by 173 votes in the Democratic primary to Sheryl Cole, who continues to serve as the state representative for District 46. Vela, an attorney, has served on the city’s Planning Commission. He has worked for the Texas Attorney General’s Office and is in private practice. Vela is the former board chair of the Workers Defense Project, where Casar worked prior to his election to City Council.

The city clerk’s office will hold a drawing at 3:00 p.m. Friday at City Hall to determine the order that candidates’ names appear on the Jan. 25 ballot. The drawing will be televised, but only candidates or a representative designated by candidates will be allowed to attend the drawing.

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