Austin City Council District 10 seat will go to runoff with Alter, Virden

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The race for Austin City Council District 10 will go to a runoff election with incumbent Alison Alter facing off against Jennifer Virden.

The crowded race for Austin City Council District 10 in west Austin featured a field of six candidates including Alter and Virden, Ben Eastin, Belinda Greene, Pooja Sethi, Noel Tristan and Robert Thomas. 

Alter received 15,539 (34.2%) votes, Virden had 11,553 (25.4%), Sethi had 8,226 (18.1%), Thomas had 7,552 (16.6%) Greene had 1,338 (2.9%), Easton had 841 (1.9%) and Tristan had 384 (0.8%).

Alison Alter has represented District 10 since 2017 and emphasizes that her experience as a mom, small business owner, educator and community advocate in her campaign. An economist with a Ph.D. from Harvard and B.A. from Stanford, she believes her record on City Council throughout the past three years and her experience is needed to address the current issues the city faces.

“I want to thank all of the many enthusiastic supporters of my re-election. Tonight I earned more votes than any council member with multiple challengers. We now enter the second phase of the election. I am confident that the residents of District 10 will continue to support my leadership and choose my proven experience. District 10 deserves an honest, hardworking leader standing up for them at City Hall, and I believe they recognize my commitment to our community.”

Austin City Council Member Alison Alter in a statement Tuesday night.

“This is a time for leadership and proven experience,” she said in a virtual forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and ATXN in September. “I believe we can turn the current crises into catalysts for solving problems that have challenged our community for too long … I am proud of my record working to make Austin a place where all can thrive and feel safe.”

Austin City Council District 10 (City of Austin Photo)
Austin City Council District 10 (City of Austin Photo)

She placed a high priority on issues such as the pandemic, unemployment, systemic racism, and climate change. Speaking on her record, she stressed that she voted against CodeNEXT (a recent attempt by the city to overhaul the land development code) and called the land development code “deeply flawed.” She also listed her efforts to improve the city’s response to sexual assault investigations and oversight of police, focus the city on climate by improving wildfire prevention and sustainability, and improving emergency services by adding more ambulances and EMS workers.

Jennifer Virden ran to the right of the current Austin City Council, pitching herself as a conservative owner of a real estate brokerage firm without a traditional political background. She voiced her staunch opposition to Project Connect, the multibillion dollar rail initiative approved for voter referendum by the council this year, citing its increase in taxes. 

“We are so excited to have made the runoff!  Our volunteers, contributors, and supporters are so enthusiastic and tireless – absolutely incredible!  We’re hitting the ground running tomorrow to make sure we win on December 15th.”

A statement from Jennifer Virden on Tuesday night.

She also opposed “defunding the police,” and intends to fully restore the money City Council diverted away from the Austin Police Department this year. 

“I’m not a polished politician. I’m just like everyone else in D10 who are sick and tired of the current city council’s flagrant disregard for the best interests of Austin,” she said.

Robert Thomas ran as a lawyer and former assistant city attorney in Houston. Throughout his 30 years living in Northwest Hills, Thomas has served as the Texas Facilities Commission Chairman and the Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission. He said these credentials qualify him to lead the city through economic development and infrastructure planning.

This long list of community experience made his pitch to voters simple: “You know me,” he said. “There is no one else that has my background, my experience, or my commitment to service. Period.”

Belinda Greene positioned herself as the moderate choice in the race. A wife and working mom, she expressed ardent disapproval of the current City Council’s and the city’s rhetoric, which she dubbed “extreme.” Greene specifically took issue with the council’s “irresponsible” budget policies, tax increases, and the “lack of direction” in the city’s homeless policies. 

Ben Easton described himself as a philosopher, teacher and writer who is running as the “common sense candidate.” With no prior government experience, Easton says he is in this race to spread his ideas about the “truth” and does not see earning office as the end.

“I don’t expect to be elected,” he said. “Because I don’t think you guys are ready for me. I don’t think you’re ready for someone to tell the truth.”

Pooja Sethi is an attorney, mother and nonprofit founder who has been active in City Hall prior to her campaign for City Council. She stressed her experience creating a taskforce in partnership with city services to feed vulnerable communities during the pandemic and founding a nonprofit to afford services to women caught in family violence.

She has also worked in City Hall on the Climate Plan Steering Committee and on other initiatives including increasing transportation for senior citizens and funding for census outreach.

“I have a demonstrated history of building bridges across our city,” she said in the forum.

Noel Tristan was also on the ballot but did not appear to run an active campaign.

The runoff election for Austin City Council will happen on December 15.

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