Austin City Council members should keep their endorsements private

Derek Poludniak

When the two major political parties are heavily polarized, voters find themselves fed up with politicians unwilling to compromise. Thankfully, on a local level, the Austin City Council and Mayor serve on a non-partisan basis so they can put what’s best for the city ahead of partisan politics — or at least they did.

Last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the support of nearly 90 Texas politicians for her presidential campaign. Dubbed the “Hillary for Texas Leadership Council,” the list included prominent Austin Democrats like State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin). But the list also included four Austin City Council members: Delia Garza, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool and Kathie Tovo.

“Hillary Clinton has the resume, passion and experience of a strong, progressive leader,” said  Tovo, the councilwoman who represents the vast majority of the area around campus. “And, quite frankly, it is beyond time for this nation to elect a woman president.”

It makes sense for these council members to endorse a Democrat. Travis County has not chosen a Republican nominee for president since George W. Bush narrowly carried the county in 2000. And in 2014, despite a large statewide loss by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, 94 of the 96 voting precincts in which the four council members appeared on the ballot chose Davis over Republican nominee Greg Abbott.

But even though the council members represent solidly Democratic districts, that doesn’t mean the plurality of their constituents support Clinton. In the most recent poll, Texas Democratic primary voters chose Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders 59-10, but the statewide poll gives no indicator as to how Austin Democrats would vote.

“We believe that while council members have the right to endorse any candidate, it is unfair because they serve on nonpartisan positions,” said psychology junior Lydia Tsao, a representative for UT Austin Students for Bernie Sanders. “Their endorsement of any candidate, whether Trump, Bernie or Hillary, does not represent the views of their constituents.”

Endorsements of presidential candidates, though important when it comes to intraparty politics, have very little sway on who the voters will ultimately choose. By choosing Clinton, despite their best intentions, the council members have alienated a large portion of their constituents who are neither Democrats nor Clinton supporters. Council members should keep their endorsements private so that the city government can remain truly nonpartisan and focus on what’s best for Austin.

Poludniak is an international and global studies sophomore from San Antonio. Follow Poludniak on Twitter @DerekPoludniak.