Vela wins Austin's District 4 special election with 59% of votes

Attorney José "Chito" Vela won Austin's City Council District 4 special election Jan. 25. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Attorney José "Chito" Vela won Austin's City Council District 4 special election Jan. 25. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Attorney José "Chito" Vela won Austin's City Council District 4 special election Jan. 25. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated Jan. 25 10:00 p.m.

Attorney José "Chito" Vela won Austin's special election for City Council District 4 with 59.23% of the votes in the seven-person race, according to unofficial results released Jan. 25.

“I feel great. Excited about the win, very happy that it didn’t go to a runoff, relieved. And excited to serve the residents of the district. I’m ready to go," Vela told Community Impact Newspaper during his election night watch party at Knomad. "[District residents have] conveyed many different issues, concerns, and I want to get to work on dealing with those.”

At least 3,608 district residents voted in the election, including 1,957 during the early voting window Jan. 10-21, and 1,645 on election day. The unofficial vote totals released by the Travis County Clerk's office showed Vela winning with 2,137 votes, more than the other six candidates combined.

Monica Guzmán, policy director at GO Austin/VAMOS Austin, was the runner-up in the race with 13.72% of the vote and Jade Lovera, Women Who Werk's chief strategy officer, placed third with 11.14%. The remaining candidates—Amanda Rios, Isa Boonto, Ramesses II Setepenre and Melinda Schiera—all finished with less than 10% of the vote total.

According to a spokesperson for the Travis County Clerk's office, a small number of provisional ballots will be cured on Jan. 31, then the city of Austin will canvass the results. Once Vela is officially confirmed as the winner he will be sworn in as Greg Casar's successor on City Council. All results are unofficial until canvassed.

Following his apparent victory, Vela said he will take time to lay out his priorities and build his staff. Once in office, he said his top concerns will range from neighborhood safety to infrastructure and housing.

“There’s a lot of safety issues whether it be traffic safety or rides to school. Different kinds of very small issues within the district that I committed to people that I would address," Vela said. "Housing obviously is a huge issue. We need more housing in the city. How do we do that? That’s going to be just a major priority. The light rail line also. I really want that to be a focus of my time on council, I want to get it done, I want to build on time, on budget. We need that. In Austin, we need good, high-quality transit.”

Casar said he believes it is important to bring a fresh voice to council after his exit, and echoed Vela's priorities as key needs to be addressed by his successor in District 4 and throughout the city.

"It’s really clear that District 4 needs a champion for housing affordability and public transportation and civil rights, and Chito is that candidate that’s going to stand up for working people even when the going gets tough," Casar said in a phone interview. "I reflect back on how, in the last year, we’ve passed laws to block thousands of evictions and foreclosures but now we need someone like Chito heading into 2022 to address the spiking rents and housing costs in the city."

Casar's final council meeting will be Feb. 3 ahead of the city's election canvass potentially to be completed Feb. 4.
By Darcy Sprague

Editor, Central and Southwest Austin

Darcy joined Community Impact Newspaper in Aug. 2021. Previously, she has covered local news from San Antonio to Dallas and reported nationally on education. Darcy graduated from Texas State University.

By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. He spent more than two years reporting on Montgomery County and The Woodlands area before moving to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city. Contact Ben with questions, tips or feedback at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BThompson_CI.