Despite last week’s elections, many of the Austin City Council races remain undecided. Eight City Council races will be decided Dec. 16, including the mayor’s race, as only three candidates have secured their seats on the City’s new district-based City Council since Election Day. Attorney Steve Adler and City Council member Mike Martinez will vie to be Austin’s next mayor over the next month.
Adler led the eight-man race on Election Day with 37 percent of the vote. Martinez claimed the second runoff spot with 30 percent, beating out Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.
Since last week’s election, Martinez has challenged Adler to three debates, which are currently being scheduled between the two campaigns. Both candidates insist they will fight for the whole of Austin, but with different approaches.
Martinez said he would better represent Austin’s middle class, citing the labor unions that endorsed his campaign.
“I am the champion of middle-class, hardworking families,” Martinez said. “That’s why you see folks within the middle-class spectrum supporting our candidacy for mayor who need a champion in the mayor’s office. … Affordability is not just about keeping costs down. It’s about providing more opportunities to working families and higher wages.”
Adler said he was proud to have the 3,000 or so supporters that contributed to his campaign — the largest group he’s seen in an Austin race. According to Adler, the variety of needs in the city all boil down to a few common goals.
“While there are lots of differences of opinion, there are also some very common wishes and hopes that people have,” Adler said. “I think central to those is the hope that we change what we’re doing — that we make City Council governance more thoughtful and deliberative and proactive, and not reactive and long-term in its thinking.”
Adler said diversity does not force the City Council to prioritize one group of people over another. Everyone in Austin shares common ground, such as a need for education opportunities and water conservation, according to Adler.
“If we were to support education in the city, so we could move toward universal pre-K, that’s something that would help all of the city,” Adler said. “If we could move forward in ways to make the city more affordable for everybody, like doing things like the homestead exemption. Even though that disproportionately helps lower income people, it helps all people, too.”
Martinez said he supports a homestead exemption — but with a flat rate basis instead.
“One of the strongest proposals pitched and sounds great when you talk about a homestead exemption like Adler’s,” Martinez said. “According to his own numbers, it would raise rents for renters. We need to have policies that reflect all of Austin. When you talk about affordability, you shouldn’t propose policies with a negative impact on students.”
According to Martinez, students are also affected by citywide policies and should vote in the runoff to get their voices heard.
“We want to help those who need it the most,” Martinez said. “We certainly appreciate all the student support we received during the general election. We know that it’s cramming for finals time, but we are going back out after our student base of support. We want them to vote in the early vote, and, if they can’t, we will hook them up with a mail vote.”
Adler said he was proud of the student turnout during the general election.
“There was a time when the student boxes determined the mayor’s race in the city of Austin, back in the early ’70s,” Adler said. “There are a lot of issues that will have a higher priority, like noise ordinances or public safety issues in West Campus or just general affordability issues. There are key issues that impact the quality of life for students. We have actively started conversations with students, and we’ll continue to do that.”
With the runoff scheduled for the last day of finals at the University, Max Patterson, director of Student Government’s Hook the Vote agency, said his organization will work to encourage students to turn out.
“We plan on reaching out to as many students as possible about the importance of the student vote in Austin elections, especially in a runoff where turnout is expected to be much lower,” Patterson said.