An Austin attorney said a district 1 city council candidate may be ineligible for the upcoming run-off election because she listed an address in a different district on many of her campaign reports.
The candidate in question, Natasha Harper-Madison said it's all just a misunderstanding.
Harper-Madison did file the clerical error with her listed address in October, but it will ultimately be up to the city clerk to decide whether she is still able to move forward in the run-off in December.
Austin voters forced a run-off between two district 1 city council candidates in November. Natasha Harper-Madison and Mariana Salazar will now face a December 11 runoff election, but, Friday, a challenge delivered to the city clerk questions Harper-Madison’s eligibility.
“As I looked through all of the filings, all of the public documents in response to my public information requests, I found that the residency address used by the candidate to begin her campaign, to begin collecting donations for her campaign, and declaring a treasurer, campaign treasurer, and campaign financial filings all listed an address that's in district 6,” said Matt Tynan, administrative attorney with the Tynan Law Firm.
To run for city council, a candidate must live in the district they wish to represent for six months prior to the campaign filing deadline. “I've lived here longer than six months,” Harper-Madison said.
Why was an address in district 6 used on her campaign reports up until October?
“Honestly, just not understanding the implications of using the address that I used as my mailing address on these things. It's one of those things, as a rookie you don't realize everything's public record from here on out,” said Harper-Madison.
Harper-Madison said her husband lives in district 6, but she moved back to East Austin in 2016.
“My husband and I, we decided to co-parent our children and not to disrupt their daily lives, and, when it was time for me to find my place, I came back to the place that's home for me. I came back to the place where my family is, where my friends are, where my community is, the district that has seen me through most of the things in my life,” Harper-Madison said.
Tynan said whatever the city clerk decides to do about the challenge will set precedence for future council elections. “The contentions included in this challenge have much less to do with the candidate in this circumstance, or even this election itself, it has much more to do with what this could mean for the next election cycle or election cycles after that,” said Tynan.
“The parameters are set up very specifically for that reason. I fall well within them, so I'm not concerned about my run and, truth be told, I think it's a pretty slippery slope when we start to determine where people can establish their residency and seek to determine for ourselves what their motivations are for moving to that district,” Harper-Madison said.
FOX 7 Austin reached out to Mariana Salazar and the city clerk to see what they thought about the challenge. Neither of them have responded.
If the clerk decides to disqualify Harper-Madison, it could force a special election or allow the candidate who placed third in November, Vincent Harding, to take her place in the runoff.