Tovo wins Place 3 seat by wide margin

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A crowd of supporters cheer for Kathie Tovo seconds after her victory of the Austin City Council Place 3 runoff election is announced Saturday night at Scholz Beer Garten.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Kathie Tovo was the clear winner of the Austin City Council Place 3 runoff election hours before the final numbers came in, and a room of excited supporters reveled in celebration and relief.

Tovo defeated incumbent Randi Shade, who had held the Place 3 seat since June 2008. In the runoff, Tovo brought in 56.25 percent of the vote to Shade’s 43.75 percent.

“I am going to focus on issues of affordability, on really working with our school district partners to keep our neighborhood schools open and really making sure that I am being responsive to the citizens of Austin,” Tovo said.

Tovo said she’ll be making an effort to represent Austinites who wanted to keep Shade in office.

“I think it’s going to be really critical for me to reach out to those who haven’t supported me and begin to build a relationship there,” Tovo said.

The runoff between the two Place 3 candidates generated a greater turnout than the general election. In the first race, 7.4 percent of registered voters turned out to the polls, while 9.58 percent voted in the runoff. Tovo received 46.38 percent of the general election vote ­— short of the 50 percent needed to call the race without a runoff.

The two candidates both said they care about serving students but differ in their approaches.

Shade, an entrepreneur and former executive director of the Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation, said she wanted to create a healthy business climate in the hopes that recent graduates find a receptive market for their talents after graduation should they choose to stay in Austin.

Tovo, who served as the vice president of the Neighborhood Planning subcommittee and on the Austin Independent School District’s Community Committee, said she wants to ensure that affordable housing for students is available in all neighborhoods, including the desirable central areas.

Tovo received a doctorate in American studies from UT in 2000 and continued as a lecturer, teaching classes in writing and women’s studies. Shade served as student body president at the University during the 1987-88 school year and graduated from Plan II Honors in 1988 before graduating with an MBA from Harvard.

“We’ve made history by getting this many people to turn out in a runoff. We’ve gotten a lot of people involved that were obviously not interested earlier,” Shade said. “I think we’ve accomplished a lot at City Hall in the last
couple years.”

Tovo won even though she entered the campaign after Shade and had fewer financial resources. She received a total of $238,934 in contributions compared to Shade’s $328,416, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed June 10.

Tovo’s contributions included $64,129 for her runoff campaign because she opted into Austin’s Fair Campaign Finance Pledge. Shade did not opt into the program.

The purpose of the fund is to provide an incentive to local politicians to cap their contributions at a certain level in a runoff to avoid high donations from specific interests, said

Danette Chimenti, a volunteer who worked on Tovo’s campaign finance reports and serves on the city’s planning commission. The fund is paid for by a collection of fees which registering lobbyists pay.

“We had to go out there and get money from your ordinary citizens, so it was very much a grassroots campaign versus a campaign by development interests,” Chimenti said.

Tovo will take office in an inauguration ceremony with re-elected council members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley at City Hall June 28. Shade’s last meeting with the council will be this Thursday.