Brother and sister battle for Austin council seat

Sabin 'Pio' Renteria and Susana Almanza

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Eight of Austin’s 10 newly formed city council districts will come down to a runoff in December, but one is unusual. District 3 in East Austin pits a brother against sister; winner take all.

There were 12 candidates vying for the top spot in District 3, more than any other district in the city. After more than 8,000 votes were cast, two people emerged. Susana Almanza edged her brother Sabin “Pio” Renteria by 223 votes. Now they will do it all over again Dec. 16.

Susana Almanza, a 62-year-old widow and longtime community and environmental activist, has four children and four grandkids as her core campaign machine. Pio Renteria, 64, has three kids and four grandkids backing him up. He is a retiree from IBM and also a longtime community activist. They were always the closest of 10 siblings, raised and schooled here and devoted to East Austin.

Now they are worried about what is happening to the neighborhood.

“Affordability is a major issue,” Susana said. “When you have to use 70 percent of your income when it used to be 30 percent, that is a major issue. We shouldn’t be developing just to be developing. What are the community benefits?”

Her brother agrees. “We’re losing a lot of our low-income, and most of our low-income population are minorities. If we don’t provide affordable housing for this group, these low income renters, we are driving them out.”

Almanza opposed the rail plan believing there are other options to getting people around. Renteria favored the rail plan calling it a good start. Each says they never could have run a citywide race before, but the new district plan opened the door for them. Four months after Susana entered the race, Renteria jumped in, creating a family rift.

“I love my brother, I really do, but he broke my heart and disappointed the family members when he decided to challenge me, his sister,” Almanza said.

“I really don’t feel there will be that much bitterness,” he replied. “There’s going to be a little hurt feelings you know, everybody gets their ego hurt.”

“Now I have to look at him as an opponent,” she added.

“I felt like I could do a better job,” Renteria said with a laugh.

The runoff and Christmas are a week apart. Should be interesting this year.

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