Austin City Council: Meet the District 4 candidates running for office

Austin, Texas - It's not every year that a city council member steps down in the middle of their term to run for Congress, but when they do, it means it's special election time.

The Austin City Council District 4 special election takes place on January 25.
The Austin City Council District 4 special election takes place on January 25.  © Collage: Taylor Kamnetz/Screenshot/City of Austin

That's just what happened with the City of Austin's District 4, which had been represented by Greg Casar until he opted to take his progressive politics and go-getter attitude to the federal level in a run for Congress.

With his absence arises the need to fill the seat with someone who will justly represent and fight for the citizens within the district as Casar has done since 2014.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the District 4 special election will cost the city roughly $253,898, and potentially more should a runoff be required to determine a winner.

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With Election Day coming up on Tuesday, it's a great time for eligible voters within the district to get acquainted with the seven hopefuls vying for a seat on the city council.

So let's meet the seven candidates running to represent District 4 on the Austin City Council.

From progressive continuity to business savvy

Jose Vela III (l.) and Jade Lovera (r.) are two of the seven candidates running to represent District 4 on the Austin City Council.
Jose Vela III (l.) and Jade Lovera (r.) are two of the seven candidates running to represent District 4 on the Austin City Council.  © Collage: Screenshot/Twitter/chitovela3 & JadeforAustin
  • Jose "Chito" Vela III
The former Texas House candidate and current immigration lawyer has been endorsed by Casar himself, along with House member Sheryl Cole, and there's no question as to why.

Both Casar and Vela hold similar progressive views on voting rights, immigration, and affordable housing.

If elected, Vela said he plans to focus on the Project Connect light rail to make the growing city more accessible to all, the housing crisis, and the response to the winter storm of February 2021 that left many Texans in the dark without water or heat.

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In his initial announcement regarding his run for City Council, Vela said, "We must make sure that Austin is a welcoming city for working-class people, not a playground for the wealthy."

He added: "You see our writers and our musicians and our actors and our creative class – folks that used to come to Austin because it fostered creativity and opportunity for so many people – and they're struggling to remain in the city."

  • Jade Lovera
Jade Lovera calls herself a "lifelong D4 resident" as well as a "community and neighborhood advocate," according to her campaign website. While Lovera lacks any political experience, she believes she makes up for it in business and management savvy.

Currently serving as the Chief Strategy Officer of Women Who Werk, an organization that provides the resources women need to succeed on their own that focuses on women of color and those of lower socioeconomic experiences, Lovera's website states, "Our city has become transactional, and the system is broken. It is more interested in 'doing deals' than actually serving residents or solving problems."

In order to fix this, Lovera plans on listening to those within the District 4 community and addressing their concerns head on to create policies that actually provide solutions to its residents.

A wide array of stances

Ramessess II Setepenre (l.), Melinda Schiera (c.), and Monica Guzmán (r.) are all going up against another in the District 4 special election.
Ramessess II Setepenre (l.), Melinda Schiera (c.), and Monica Guzmán (r.) are all going up against another in the District 4 special election.  © Collage: Screenshot/Twitter/Melinda Schiera/Facebook/RSfor4 & monicaguzmanfordistrict4
  • Isa Boonto
Though Boonto also lacks any political experience, she knows what it's like living within such a rapidly growing city without the compensation needed to afford it.
As an art teacher at Navarro Early College High School and president of the North Austin Civic Association, Boonto is focused on finding solutions for the affordable housing crisis that allows transplants to enjoy living in the district, but also keeps current residents in their homes.
  • Amanda Rios
According to her campaign website, Rios has lived in the Austin area for 30 years, and her candidacy is focused around items such as affordability, comprehensive public safety "to ensure we are providing world-class police, firefighter, and first responder services," and ending homeless camping.
  • Monica Guzmán
This isn't Guzmán's first time running for the District 4 seat on the Austin City Council, as she also ran back in 2014.

This time around, Guzmán has a better platform to run on, given the fact she served on the city's reimagining public safety task force, a volunteer group hand-selected by the city manager's office tasked with recommending policing changes after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

If elected, Guzmán plans to focus on enhancing public safety, increasing access to healthcare for underserved communities, economic development, and protecting the right to public education.

  • Melinda Schiera
Like many Austin residents, Schiera is still concerned about the city's lack of emergency preparedness in terms of the winter storm that hit in February 2021. Additionally, she hopes to improve the process for removing abandoned vehicles in District 4, while also supporting the implementation of Proposition B – the city's ban on homeless encampments – "in a humane manner," according to her campaign website.
  • Ramessess II Setepenre
Setepenre ran for city council last year, and though he was unsuccessful then, he's hoping for a different result this time around. As a ride-share driver, Setepenre felt compelled to run for a seat on the city council after alleging he was mistreated by City Hall.

There's not a lot of information regarding his views on his official Facebook page, but it seems he's interested in living wages, access to affordable housing, and giving a voice to underserved communities in District 4.

Election Day for the District 4 contest is Tuesday, January 25, and the polls will be open from 7 AM to 7 PM CST. Should a runoff election be needed, it will take place on March 22.

Cover photo: Collage: Taylor Kamnetz/Screenshot/City of Austin

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