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Photo by the Linda Guerrero and Zo Qadri campaigns

Guerrero and Qadri set for runoff in District 9

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 by Nina Hernandez

With six candidates on the ballot and the incumbent term-limited, the District 9 City Council race fulfilled its promise Tuesday night as one of the most competitive contests on the ballot. None of the candidates cleared the 50 percent threshold needed, so progressive political professional Zo Qadri and longtime educator and environmentalist Linda Guerrero will face off in the runoff.

Qadri came in first after the votes were tallied, with 29.9 percent. The Pakistani immigrant who moved to Texas at age 12 would be the first South Asian and Muslim elected to Austin City Council. Qadri ran his campaign on transit and increasing the city’s housing supply through relaxed zoning regulations.

“I think that speaks to the investments we made in the field,” Qadri told the Austin Monitor Tuesday night. “I think that speaks to the investments we made in every community – whether homeowner, renter, longtime Austinite, freshman at UT – and making sure that every single person in this district felt part of this campaign and felt part of this city.”

Of his plans for the runoff, Qadri said his campaign will continue to invest in organizing and turnout. “What we’ve always wanted to do is elevate the voices of everyone in this district,” Qadri said. “So nothing changes, our game plan doesn’t change, our strategy doesn’t change. It’s about continuing to do the work and to earn every vote.”

The candidate with the next highest number of votes is Guerrero, who has served on the city’s Environmental Commission and Parks and Recreation Board. She campaigned on preserving local businesses, parks and neighborhood schools. Guerrero secured 22.3 percent of the vote.

“I am grateful to be in the runoff and encouraged by the broad support we received all across District 9,” said Guerrero in a statement to the Monitor. “Over the next 6 weeks, I will continue to talk with voters about addressing the immediate needs of Austin residents, such as housing affordability and the rising costs of living.  As evidenced by my years chairing the Austin Environmental Commission and Parks Board, I am a consensus builder.  I believe, by working together, we can find a win-win solution for whatever challenges our city faces. One example is the work I did on the highly successful University Neighborhood Overlay (UNO) that created thousands of housing units in West Campus while also protecting the character of surrounding neighborhoods.”

Former Chris Riley policy analyst Ben Leffler came in third with 21.2 percent of the vote. The native Austinite billed himself as a pragmatist who could work with various City Hall interests to find a path forward on land use reform. He told the Monitor the early vote results were a signal voters are embracing a housing-first policy platform.

“I think it’s a resounding vote for housing policy,” Leffler said. “For myself, for Zo. It just shows that everything we’ve been talking about from the very beginning is resonating. People really care about that and that’s what’s driving the results.”

Entrepreneur Greg Smith, entrepreneur and housing advocate Joah Spearman, mobility advocate Tom Wald, public policy consultant Kym Olson and former educator Zena Mitchell each won less than 10 percent of the vote total.

Neighborhood advocate Kathie Tovo was first elected to the previously at-large Council in 2011. She was reelected in 2014 to represent District 9 and won another term in 2018. The winner of the runoff will be the second person to represent Austin’s downtown district.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been updated with a statement from Guerrero.

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