This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. with the final election results.
With all votes tallied, Vanessa Fuentes won the race for the District 2 seat on Austin City Council, with 56.12% of votes.
Opponents Casey Ramos and David Chincanchan earned 19.79% and 19.08% of the vote, respectively. A fourth candidate, Alex Strenger, dropped out and endorsed Ramos but still received 5% of votes.
"The early voting numbers show my campaign as winning without a runoff," Fuentes said during a Facebook live at 9 p.m. "This campaign has received more than twice—more than twice—the amount of votes of any candidate in this race.
The winner will replace District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, who will vacate her seat to serve as Travis County attorney. She won the Democratic primary for the position in July, and there is no Republican candidate.
District 2 is one of five of Austin City Council's 10 seats up for election this year. Council members will be tasked with rewriting the city's land use code, considering further cuts to the Austin Police Department's budget, and—with voter approval of Proposition A—implementing the $7.1 billion Project Connect transit plan.
Fuentes is a progressive Democrat and works for the American Heart Association. Raised in Southeast Austin and a graduate of UT-Austin, she focused on health equity and housing affordability during the campaign period. She does not support the land code rewrite process and recently criticized the lack of support in place after council overturned its ban on public camping.
Fuentes raised about $57,000 over the campaign period.
Chincanchan is the former chief of staff for District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria. Raised in the Southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs, he ran on a platform of increasing affordable housing and investing in public transit initiatives.
Ramos, a native Southeast Austinite, is a former elite boxer and community activist. He helped found local nonprofits such as Community Not Commodity, which staunchly opposes the land use code rewrite process in Austin, and Dove Springs Proud, a private Christian civic group. Ramos raised less than $6,000.
Ramos does not support council's decision to overturn the ban on public camping, which he told Austonia is a health and safety hazard. Instead, he supports investing in wrap-around services, such as housing and mental health care.
Chincanchan supports the land use code rewrite and council's June 2019 decision to lift a ban on public camping in Austin. "Criminalizing our unhoused neighbors is not just morally wrong, it is immensely counterproductive," he recently told Austonia.
Chincanchan raised the most among the District 2 candidates, with around $97,000 in donations as of the latest round campaign finance reports.
Travis County saw record voter turnout this election, with 26,376 District 2 residents casting a ballot in this year's race, compared to 14,999 in 2016.
Austin seems to have passed its fourth COVID peak, but public health leaders are already monitoring a new omicron-related variant that was recently detected in Texas.
Just as quickly as it came, the omicron variant that shuttered schools, businesses and holiday gatherings is finally receding, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Desmar Walkes said Friday. According to a University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium projections, the variant's caseload peaked on Jan. 9 in the Austin-Round Rock area.
But Austin Public Health is already looking to the new variation of it, dubbed the BA. 2 omicron variant, as it spreads to 40 countries including the U.S. Similar to the original "BA.1" omicron strain, the new variety shares most of omicron's characteristics but has 20 key mutations from the original. Walkes said the variant has over 80 mutations and appears to be more transmissible than the original omicron strain, though vaccines appear to behave similarly in protecting residents from serious complications.
The variant has been found in dozens of countries and is surpassing case numbers for the BA.1 omicron strain in Denmark, though researchers have so far found no difference in hospitalizations between the two omicron variants. The World Health Organization classifies all omicron strains as "variants of concern" but hasn't specified between the two.
Chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette said that while BA.2 will act similarly to its parent variant, the strain's transmissibility could cause a new spike in the area.
"We're at a critical point right now," Pichette said. "This new variant has been identified in Texas with three cases in the Houston area, so odds are that it's circulating around us right now."
For now, Pichette said cases are on the "downhill slide," while ICU admissions are expected to peak in the first week of February. With a 100% household transmission rate so far, Walkes said it's more crucial than ever to vaccinate children over five and protect other vulnerable members of the community.
"This new variant spreads more quickly and because of that we're going to see an impact on the general population," Walkes said. "It's going to find the vulnerable, and in this case it's going to affect the unvaccinated and those who cannot get vaccinated."
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Whether you became a home chef when the pandemic began or have always enjoyed crafting delicious meals, it’s undeniable that no home is complete without a cozy kitchen.
Take a peek at these five gems on the market now.
In the South Austin Parten community, this castle-like four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom stunner puts you just minutes from Austin, Dripping Springs and other nearby communities. Stark white and black contrasting features give the interiors a clean look, while a large curving staircase serves as a centerpiece for the ground floor. The chef’s kitchen is spacious, facing the living room and multiple windows, and immediately draws the eye. Upstairs you’ll find a spa-style bathroom, game room with a wet bar and Hill Country Views.This listing is held by Adam Zell and Lexie Zell.
This hyper-modern, 3,300-square-foot Scandinavian-styled home is a paradise for natural light in Hyde Park. With four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms spread across one story, the home rests on concrete columns to protect from extreme climate conditions. Inside, you’ll find crisp, clean trim in the open-plan kitchen with built-in luxury appliances and a walk-in pantry. Lofty 12-foot ceilings and gigantic windows set the tone, with a wet bar and second living room for entertaining. When you retire to the master bedroom, enjoy a warm bath in the soaking tub or enjoy the multi-output shower.
This listing is held by Austin Stowell.
In the heart of Westlake, this stacked three-story new build is a sprawling 4,483 square feet with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. The home is centrally located and full of natural light, especially on the open concept first floor, which includes the kitchen, casual dining space and living area. The third floor has a bedroom and loft, perfect for the at-home worker.
This listing is held by Jen Templeton and Cheryl Albanese.
This 3,539 square foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom Tarrytown townhouse is newly remodeled but still holds on to its vintage charm. Bright white cabinets, a green accented island and quartzite countertops in the kitchen give the space a cheery feeling. Entering on the second floor, you’ll have to walk downstairs to get to the bedrooms, which include ensuite baths and walk-in showers. The third level bonus room is the perfect place for an at-home office.This listing is held by Cindy Fowler.
Just outside Austin in the sleepy town of Wimberley, the Backbone Ridge Ranch is one of the city’s most “iconic and pristine” properties. On nearly 50 acres of land, the house takes you into nature without getting too far from nearby cities. With 4,369 square feet, six bedrooms and six-and-a-half bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows effortlessly light the entire space. You’ll feel like a celebrity chef while cooking in the kitchen, even more so entertaining from the outdoor kitchen and living space. The 33,000-gallon quarried limestone pool is perfect for those hot Hill Country summers!This listing is held by Nicole Kessler.
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