ELECTION RESULTS: District 9 incumbent Kathie Tovo earns rare third consecutive Austin City Council term

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After a tough campaign incumbent Kathie Tovo will retain her seat as Austin City Council’s downtown representative after earning more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday night.

Tovo defeated her closest challenger, transportation engineer Danielle Skidmore, by 22 points, 53 percent to 31 percent. Local high school teacher Linda O’Neal earned 10 percent, and University of Texas student Isiah Jones received 6 percent.

Tovo, who has touted herself as a progressive voice on the dais, said she was “grateful” the voters supported her third term, but said difficult work lies ahead.

“We have some really challenging issues ahead of us,” Tovo said, highlighting her priority of ending homelessness in the community. “Including what has become an extremely divisive discussion about land use. I am hopeful … we can forge a path that works for everybody, that preserves what we love about this city … but also embraces the need for change.”

When the early voting total came in Tuesday evening, Tovo jumped to a 21-point lead, an advantage Skidmore could not overcome as Election Day totals trickled in. Roughly 97 percent of District 9 ballots were cast during the early voting period, according to totals from the Travis County clerk. The 2018 election saw 11,039 more ballots cast in the District 9 race than in the 2014 election.

As the night progressed and the results became imminent, Tovo said Skidmore called to congratulate her on the victory. Skidmore could not be reached for comment.

“It was a pretty intense campaign at times, but I’m just really honored at the voters of District 9 that supported my return to office, and I’m excited to continue the work I’ve started,” Tovo said.

With a victory Tuesday night, Tovo earned a rare third term on Austin City Council, on which members are typically restricted to two terms. She began her first term in 2011 as a member of the former at large City Council system, one in which the six council members and mayor were elected by a citywide popular vote.

After Austin City Council overhauled its system to the district representation form of government known as 10-1—10 city council members representing individual districts across Austin and one mayor elected by the entire city—Tovo was elected to serve as the first representative of District 9. Earlier this year, there was a question whether Tovo was eligible for a third term, since technically it would only be her second term under the existing system of government; however, just to be safe and in accordance with city charter, Tovo turned in a petition with 5 percent of eligible district voters okaying her run for what would be her third consecutive term.

Several challenges lie ahead for Tovo and the rest of City Council. Alongside the land-use and homelessness issues, Austin has mounting housing and affordability crises, increasing mobility gridlock and a police department that has operated without a contract since December 2017.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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