For the People, By the People: Conway is a Homegrown Place 1 Candidate

Place 1 Candidate Lewis Conway and his wife and Chief of Staff Nicole. Photo by D. Hills
Lewis Conway, Jr. was never much of a conformist.

Known as “Doonie” most of his life, he was the big black guy who listened to Rock and Roll music, and could be found sporting cowboy boots and a Run DMC t-shirt at the same time.

He certainly didn’t display the ambition and passion for service that was evident as he laid out his vision for Austin’s District 1 while sitting in the living room of his East Austin home.

We answer to the people

“Our campaign has taken on the responsibility of activating a part of the local electorate that others don’t care about. We answer to the people on welfare, people who are in between jobs, people who spend a large percentage of their income on child support and student loans. These are many of the people in my District.”

Conway compared incumbent Ora Houston to Moses in the bible, one divinely assigned to liberate a people, in this case from the at-large system that effectively stripped away the voice from an entire community. “Moses’ death marked the end of an era and made the way for Joshua, who took it from there and actually led the people to the land of the free.”

With a platform that includes access to affordable healthcare and advocacy for a District 1 credit union and supermarket, (all realized with the support of a radically activated spiritual community) Conway sees himself as the Joshua the city needs.

Unlike previous leaders who were endorsed and supported by traditional power brokers, Conway is proud that he was chosen “by the people.”

After his work on legislation related to Fair Chance Hiring, Conway says people recognized a skillset and vision that should be elevated to the citywide level and encouraged him to run. Conway has also been actively involved in grassroots initiatives related to juvenile curfew, paid sick days and the APD contract negotiations.

“The decision was not ours,” Conway said, referring to himself and his wife and campaign Chief of Staff, Nicole. Nicole shared how proud she was of her husband for not allowing his prison record and the barrier it could represent to deter him from the call he is clearly answering.

I’m excited about the opportunity for people like us to be heard.

“God showed me that we would go into ministry, but that it would not look like a typical church.” As her husband’s vision unfolds, she said she sees how the elected office would be the pulpit and the people of District 1 the flock they are charged to lead.

“I’m excited about the opportunity for people like us to be heard.” She sees the chance for everyday people who struggle with difficult pasts, including issues like criminal backgrounds and mental illness, to be inspired by their story. Conway himself sees an opportunity to fill a gaping hole in District 1 representation.

He laments that too often, Houston needed to be convinced to vote for issues that she should have not only voted for, but should have taken leadership on. The vast majority of the time, “she has voted with Republicans, whose platform does not align with our District’s interests.”

Conway is the first formerly incarcerated person to run for office in the state of Texas

Conway’s campaign aims to address the abandonment and lack of opportunity in black and brown communities, and how those gaps lead to self-destructive behavior that reinforces the stigma used to justify the oppressive City policies. “While Austin has become famous for its multiculturalism,” Conway explains, “the city earned the title at the cost of displacing too many people.”

Conway is the first formerly incarcerated person to run for office in the state of Texas,. As a result, there is no precedent that clearly defines his eligibility to get his name on the ballot. Although he has successfully completed his parole and regained the right to vote, Conway is pursuing several legal options that will remove any doubt that his citizenship rights have been fully restored. “I am optimistic that we will succeed in that effort,” he said.

Conway emphasized his campaign’s need for financial support from the constituents he desires to serve. “We don’t have the luxury of an established funding source,” like others have had. Conway has established a fundraising effort to hire people, including formerly incarcerated people, to work on his campaign. This will enable them to essentially, “work for the same system they have been locked out of.”

Voters are encouraged to come out and meet the candidate at his official kickoff event, January 16th from 7-10pm at Midtown Live, 7408 Cameron Road.

 

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