Candidates Have Voting Records Too
Some vote often, some don't vote much
and one candidate isn’t a registered voter
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog
Posted Friday, August 29, 2014 9:57am
Updated August 30, 2014 10:22am for Delia Aileen Garza’s voting history
When considering which candidates to vote for, we can examine the records of incumbent elected officials to see how their performance aligns with our own interests and values.
Sheryl ColeMike MartinezYet in this historic election that transforms the election of city council members—a transition from an at-large system in which all voters get to cast ballots for all council members, to a system in which council members are elected from geographic districts—just four incumbents are running. At most, only two of them can be elected.
Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Nelson Cole and Council Member Michael William “Mike” Martinez are running for mayor and they have six other opponents. Cole and Martinez have both been on the council since 2006.
Chris RileyKathie TovoCouncil Members Christopher John “Chris” Riley and Kathryne B. “Kathie” Tovo are running for the District 9 seat, as is newcomer Erin Kendra McGann. Riley has been on the council since 2009, and Tovo since 2011.
But what of the other 74 candidates running for mayor and council? None have held elective office. So aside from what these candidates say on the campaign trail, how do we judge their fitness for office?
The Austin Bulldog aims to provide information that assists voters in choosing which candidates are deserving of donations, volunteer efforts, and votes. To that end, this is the first in a series of articles that will offer filters through which the candidates fitness to serve will be assessed. This article will focus on how much the candidates have participated in democracy by exercising their right to vote.
The Austin Bulldog obtained records from voter registrars in Travis and Williamson counties that provide the voting history of each of the 78 candidates running for mayor and city council.
The adjacent chart indicates the year in which the candidates first voted in an election, the total number of times they have voted, and the number of times they voted in Democratic and Republican primaries or runoffs. Click on a candidate’s name to download the voting history obtained from voter registrars. (Note: Travis County computer records only go back to 1990, so these numbers will not reflect voting in prior years.)
A significant number of these candidates—27 in all—have been voting since at least 1990.
Who’s most vested in voting?
Nine candidates have voted in more than 50 elections, including primaries, primary runoffs, and general elections. These include:
• Mayoral candidate Sheryl Nelson Cole (55 times).
• District 1 Ora Elliott Houston (57).
• District 3 siblings Susana Renteria Almanza (51) and Sabino “Pio” Renteria (58).
• District 5 Ann Elizabeth Kitchen (54).
• District 7 Jefferson Elmer “Jeb” Boyt (55) and Leslie Howard Pool (57). Boyt’s total is all the more remarkable because his first vote was cast in 1994, while all the others go back to 1990.
• District 9 incumbent Chris Riley (57).
• District 10 Amanda Mayhew “Mandy” Dealey (54).
In stark contrast, some candidates have not voted with great regularity. For purposes of this analysis, any candidate who has voted in one-third or fewer elections than the candidates who have been voting most frequently may be said to have very low participation. These include:
Mayoral candidates Mary Catherine Krenek and Todd Howell Phelps both started voting in 1990, yet Krenek has voted just 14 times since then, Phelps 18 times.
District 3 candidate Jose Antonio Valera first voted in 2008 but only voted twice, while District 6 candidate Matthew Duane “Matt” Stillwell, who also voted for the first time in 2008, has cast ballots in 17 elections.
Political party affiliations
Our earlier investigation (City Elections Are Nonpartisan, Right?) detailed how the Travis County Democratic Party is providing significant assistance to candidates for mayor and city council, if those candidates are deemed sufficiently Democratic and willing to be identified as such in this election.
However, that article was published before the field of candidates was made final at the close of business August 18—the filing deadline for a place on the ballot. Nine individuals who showed intent to run by appointing a campaign treasurer dropped out by not filing for a place on the ballot.
Seven other people waited until the filing deadline to appoint a campaign treasurer and apply for a place on the ballot. And a few more did so within the last week of the filing period.
Now that the ballot is officially set, a fuller examination indicates that 19 of the candidates actually running appear to be Republicans. This assessment is based on voting histories that indicate they either voted exclusively in Republican Party primaries or did so a majority of the times they cast ballots in primaries or runoffs. These include:
• Mayoral candidates Todd Howell Phelps and Randall Forrest Stephens.
• District 1 George William Hindman.
• District 3 Kent K. Phillips
• District 5 Jason R. Denny, Luis Miguel “Mike” Rodriquez, and David Craig Senecal.
• District 6 Lloyd Gordon “Pete” Phillips Jr., Jay Byron Wiley, and Donald Shelley “Don” Zimmerman.
• District 7 Edgar Edwin “Ed” English
• District 8 Rebecca Anne “Becky” Bray and Ellen Gale Troxclair.
• District 9 Erin Kendra McGann
• District 10 Marjorie Presley “Margie” Burciaga, Sheri Perry Gallo, Matthew Lamar “Matt” Lamon, Robert Dartanian Thomas (not because he voted in more GOP primaries but because in 2012 he ran for state representative as a Republican against incumbent Democrat Donna Howard), and William Lee “Bill” Worsham.
A couple of other candidates show an even split in votes cast in GOP and Democratic primary elections: mayoral candidate David Martin Orshalick (one each) and District 1 candidate Samuel Amechi “Sam Osemene (two each).
All other candidates appear to be Democrats or lean toward that party preference, based on their voting in primary elections.
Candidate criteria minimal
Aside from ambition, a candidate doesn’t need much to meet the basic qualifications to run for elective office in the City of Austin.
Article II, Section 2 of the Austin City Charter prescribes the basic criteria. All candidates must have resided continuously in the state for 12 months and in the city for six months immediately preceding the regular filing deadline for a place on the ballot (in other words, they were required to have taken up residence in Austin by no later than August 18, 2013).
Candidates for a city council district must also have resided in the district from which they are seeking election for six months immediately preceding the filing deadline (by no later than February 18, 2014).
While meeting these criteria—in addition to paying a filing fee or submitting signatures in lieu of filing fee—is all that’s needed to get on the ballot, voters might like to know that candidates have been around town for a while and thus have had opportunities to be more familiar with the city and the issues important to its citizens.
Yet many candidates are relatively recent participants in local voting. For purposes of this article we define “recent” as having been voting in the City of Austin for five or fewer years (in 2010 or later). We chose that criteria because having been registered for five or more years was one of the qualifications to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which drew the maps for the city council districts that are being used for the first time in this election.
The candidates who first voted in 2010 or later are:
• Mayoral candidate Randall Forrest Stephens (2010)
• District 2 Delia Aileen Garza (2010) (The correction posted August 30 indicates that Garza first voted in 2000.)
• District 3 Shaun Dylan Ireland (2011), Eric Javier Rangel (2010), and Ricardo Turullols-Bonilla (2010).
• District 4 Gregorio Eduardo “Greg” Casar (2012), Marcos Mancillas (2010), and Roberto Perez Jr. (2010).
• District 6 James Timothy “Jimmy” Flannigan (2012), Lloyd Gordon “Pete” Phillips Jr. (2012), and Jay Byron Wiley (2014).
• District 7 James Anthony “Jimmy” Paver (2014) and Melissa Ann Zone (2012).
• District 8 Ellen Gale Troxclair (2010).
• District 10 Matthew Lamar “Matt” Lamon (2011).
Not a registered voter?
Odd as it seems to ask people to vote for him without having voted for anyone himself in local elections, District 2 candidate Michael James “Mike” Owen, is not listed as a registered voter.
He told The Austin Bulldog he has submitted an application to register but it would not be effective for 30 days.
But Abbie Tobias, voter registration supervisor for Travis County, told The Austin Bulldog in a phone interview August 28 that her office has no record of an application from Owen.
Related Bulldog coverage:
City Elections Are Nonpartisan, Right? But that’s not stopping the Travis County Democratic Party from helping candidates, August 13, 2014