Candidates vie for Place 3 seat in Austin City Council

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Randi Shade

                                                                                       Kathie Tovo and Randi Shade

Early voting opens today for the City Council runoff election for the Place 3 seat between incumbent Randi Shade and opponent Kathie Tovo.

Registered voters may go to any early voting location today through June 14 to cast their ballot for the June 18 election. The Flawn Academic Center will be the on-campus location will be the, and vote-by-mail ballots must be received by June 10.

Shade received 32.90 percent of the votes to Tovo’s 46.38 percent in the May election. At least 50 percent of the vote is required to secure the seat. Since neither opponent has ceded their campaign, it has gone to a runoff.

Shade has held the Place 3 seat since June 2008. Before serving on the City Council, she launched Americorps in Texas under Gov. Ann Richards, started an internet business and served as executive director of the Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation, according to information from her campaign office. Shade garnered 64.15 percent of the vote in 2009.

Tovo served in appointed positions for the City Council, including vice president of the Neighborhood Planning subcommittee, as a planning commissioner and on Austin Independent School District’s Community Committee, according to her website.

Both candidates have roots at the University. Shade served as student body president from 1987-88 and graduated with Plan II Honors in 1988 before getting her MBA from Harvard.

As a council member, Shade said she wants to continue to create a healthy environment for students to obtain employment and pursue entrepreneurship after graduation.

“I have always had an eye on making sure we have job opportunities,” Shade said, “That’s all about making sure that Austin continues to be vibrant and has an economy that can support all the talents and entrepreneurial dreams of students at UT.”

Tovo earned her doctorate in American studies at the University in 2000 and continued as a lecturer, teaching writing and women’s studies. Tovo’s campaign has focused on keeping schools open during AISD’s financial trouble and keeping housing costs and utility rates low.

“The decisions the council makes definitely affect students’ quality of life, because if everybody else is paying higher utility rates, well — they will too,” said Tovo. “We would all benefit from doing what we can as a city to promote housing for people of all income levels.”

Shade said her experience and willingness to hear many different perspectives of many different sides makes her a stronger candidate for the office.

“I came to City Hall with a very broad background in my community involvement,” Shade said. “I think it’s very important to have people there who are not City Hall insiders.”

Because students often plan to stay in Austin, Tovo said it is in their interest to participate in city government. Only 7.4 percent of eligible voters, or 32,880 people, participated in last month’s general election.

“Anything we can do as a community to increase voter turnout is important. We really do need to get those numbers up, and that is going to require some long-term thinking about how do we get Austinites to get out there and vote, because it’s important,” said Tovo.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell endorsed Shade, as did Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and Place 1 member Chris Riley.

Former Place 3 contenders Kris Bailey and Michael Nofzinger have both issued formal endorsements for Tovo, urging their former supporters to vote for her in the runoff.

In the May 14 City Council elections, both Chris Riley and Laura Morrison kept their seats, Places 1 and 3.
The city holds staggered at-large elections for half the seats every year. Next year the city will vote for the Mayor and Places 2, 5 and 6.