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Vela easily wins District 4 race

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 by Jo Clifton

A look at the election results Tuesday night showed that José “Chito” Vela would handily defeat his six opponents in the special election to replace outgoing Council Member Greg Casar. Vela won 2,137 votes for 59.23 percent. His closest rival, Monica Guzmán, received just 495 votes for 13.72 percent of the vote. Coming in third was Jade Lovera, who received 402 votes for just over 11 percent of the vote.

Vela told the Monitor, “I’m very excited about the win, happy and humbled and very grateful. We really just hit the ground so hard during these last few weeks. I think we knocked on thousands of doors …. We had a great team, so many volunteers, and I’m deeply appreciative.”

When asked what topic he expected to tackle first as a Council member, Vela said housing. “We’ve got to build more housing. Rents are skyrocketing, home prices are skyrocketing … and the other is Project Connect.” He expects Project Connect “to create new opportunities in Austin, and I want to make sure the project is built on time.”

Vela, an attorney and former member of the Planning Commission, garnered the lion’s share of endorsements, including the Austin Firefighters Association, Austin EMS Association, Austin AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, Workers Defense Action Fund and at least three Democratic clubs. The Austin Chronicle co-endorsed Vela and Guzmán. In addition, Vela has the support of incumbent Council Member Casar, Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Pio Renteria, Vanessa Fuentes and Natasha Harper-Madison.

Casar, who is running for U.S. Congress in Texas’ District 35, told the Austin Monitor he believes Vela will do a good job on Council. “It’s really important to carry on putting forward the interests of working people and civil rights at City Hall,” he said, “even if that comes with criticism. I think he’s very ready to do that.”

Guzmán, an organizer and activist, is the policy director for GAVA (Go Austin, Vamos Austin), which focuses on improved health for Austin’s low-income community. She had support from the environmental community, winning endorsements from the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action.

Shortly after the early vote came in, Guzmán said, “I’m looking forward. I’m optimistic. Regardless of what happens I will continue to serve the community.”

In addition to the top three vote-getters, Amanda Rios, favored by the Save Austin Now coalition, received 9.67 percent of the vote, or 349 votes. Melinda Schiera came in next with 175 votes, or 4.85 percent. Isa Boonto, an art teacher, received 33 votes, or less than 1 percent. Finally, Ramesses II Setepenre, who described himself as a gay eco-socialist, came in last with 17 votes in early voting, less than one half of 1 percent of the vote.

In an emailed statement, Casar said, “Despite constant fear-mongering and smear campaigns from far-right-wing special interests, District 4 voters elected a progressive champion tonight. We’ve proven that progressive policies are popular, and I’m looking forward to working with Chito to deliver for working families.” Casar’s final Council meeting will be on Feb. 3. Both Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled for March 1.

District 4 election results via Travis County.

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