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This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. with the final election results.
With all votes tallied, Austin Council Member Greg Casar has been reelected to his District 4 seat on Austin City Council, having received 66.85% of votes.
Opponents Louis C. Herrin III and Ramesses II Setepenre earned 24.74% and 8.41% of the vote, respectively.
WE WON tonight! Elections are not destinations, but doorways. We've proven that progressive policies change lives… https://t.co/1opBGUMTqY— Gregorio Casar (@Gregorio Casar)1604457617.0
District 4, which includes northeast and north central Austin, is one of five of Austin City Council's 10 seats up for election this year. In his next text, Casar will be tasked with the ongoing rewrite of 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.
As a council member, Casar has supported all of the above initiatives and been a force for progressive policies, championing a paid sick leave ordinance that was passed by council but later blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. He also authored the "Freedom City" policies, which significantly curbed discretionary misdemeanor arrests.
Casar was also a vocal supporter of council's decision to overturn its camping ban, which he said was a critical step toward decriminalizing homelessness.
"We know it's wrong to throw someone in jail for doing nothing wrong other than simply being homeless," he recently told Austonia.
Casar outraised his opponents by a wide margin, with $134,000 in donations, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports.
THREAD: A look at Texas voter turnout by examining my district, the lowest income and most immigrant part of Austin… https://t.co/DQXeyCWDl0— Gregorio Casar (@Gregorio Casar)1604425926.0
Herrin is a long-time environmental engineer with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who ran unsuccessfully against Casar in 2016 and 2014. He opposes the current council's push to reimagine public safety by reallocating police funds to other city services.
Herrin is also against council's decision to overturn the camping ban, which he told Austonia did nothing to address homelessness while making it less safe for people who work and live downtown.
Herrin raised around $30,000.
Setepenre is a licensed massage therapist. On his campaign's Facebook page, he describes himself as a "self-funded, gay eco-socialist" who supports sex workers, the decriminalization of drugs, universal healthcare and reparations.
In an interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Setepenre said he has experienced homelessness and believes the city needs to address the origins of homelessness, such as substance use and lack of familial support.
Travis County saw record voter turnout this election, with 17,285 District 4 residents casting a ballot in this year's race, compared to 12,035 in 2016.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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