Amarillo voters send a message with Saturday vote

May 8, 2017

Freda Powell is the first black woman to serve on the Amarillo City Council
Credit MyHighPlains.com

Amarillo held citywide elections this weekend, and according to myhighplains.com for the first time in 70 years, all incumbent candidates on the City Council were defeated.

This is the first time the city will have a majority-female City Council, and Amarillo also chose its first black woman to sit on the council: Place Two’s Freda Powell. The new choices reflect something of a return to tradition for Amarillo, which has in decades past often favored candidates focused on expanding economic growth.

Many saw the elections in 2015 of candidates like Elisha Demerson and Randy Burkett as a foretaste of Trump’s victory in the 2016 nationwide elections. Tea Party and other far-right voters showed up in force to try and stop downtown development, including the controversial “MPEV,” a project for which they did not want to carry the tax burden. Now those candidates, including Elisha Demerson in Place One, Randy Burkett in Place Three, and Mark Nair in Place Four, are out—and the vote counts weren’t close.

As The Amarillo Globe reported earlier this year, Burkett announced that he would not seek re-election after he became embroiled in controversy after making comments on Facebook that some local observers deemed racist.

Demerson and Nair were both defeated by two-to-one margins, by financial planner Elaine Hays and businessman Howard Smith, respectively. 

In addition to the new blood on the council, the city will welcome a new mayor, local attorney and business-owner Ginger Nelson. Nelson will replace three-time incumbent Paul Harpole, who announced he would not seek re-election.