Muni Elections: Winners and Losers

Washington Post blogger Chris Cilizza does a quick "Winners and Losers" analysis piece after major primaries/caucuses, and I'll try it here on PJ since my photoblogging failed so miserably last night. (Blasted wireless card!)

Final election results are here.

I admit my knowledge of Austin city politics is quite limited, as state politics/the lege usually keeps me busy enough. I'm covering city races because our former City Hall reporter, Kevin Peters, left just before elections heated up. (He went to our sister station, KHOU-TV. We miss you Kevin).

But I do cover politics, and as they say, all politics is local... so here's an outside-looking-in view of this year's winners and losers:

The People Who Actually Voted
35,830 people voted in this year's municipal elections. That's eight percent of registered voters in Travis County. Blame it on Mother's Day weekend, voter fatigue or just plain ignorance. But less than 10% of the people registered to vote decided three city council seats and millions in bonds for the Austin ISD. If you did vote, (and I trust that most PJ readers in Austin certainly did), you win, because your vote carried a lot more weight than had more people turned out.

Mark "Puppetmaster" Nathan
The Austin political consultant advised both Place 1 winner Lee Leffingwell and Place 3 winner Randi Shade. While you never want your consultant making the news, Nathan was dragged into the race by Shade's opponent -- Kim. The Kim campaign sent a mailer alleging he's a "developer lobbyist" who would only enhance his power at City Hall if Shade were elected. He brushed off the charge, so did voters. Both Nathan's candidates won with more than two-third's of the vote.

Lee Leffingwell's legs
My first impression upon seeing Leffingwell's TV ad was, wow, he's showing a lot of leg.

"I've taken a lot of ribbing about that," he said.

But Leffingwell won a three-way race with 68% of the vote; a testament to his strength as an incumbent, his job performance during his first term and, dare I say, his nice stems? The electorate's looking for bold leaders. Leffingwell's willingness to show a little leg must say something about boldness.

Public Safety Unions
The public safety groups endorsed Leffingwell in Place 1, Randi Shade in Place 3, and Cid Galindo in Place 4. Two are winners, the other made a runoff. The groups were brought into the vitriolic final weeks over their Shade endorsement. The Kim campaign alleged (in an unsourced robocall) that Shade "made promises" to increase law enforcement staff and got an endorsement in exchange. The police, firefighters and EMS came out swinging, blasting Kim on Monday of the final week of the campaign. When Kim's campaign kept this narrative going, they came back to blast Kim a second time. In the end, Shade counted on not just public safety - but a broad coalition of support - to trounce Kim nearly 2 to 1.


"Lisa" the Robocaller
This electronic voice of "Lisa" has yet to turn up in real life. "Lisa" made the robocall launched against Shade last Monday, a symbol of the negative tone in the Place 3 race's final weeks. As it turns out, the robocall - and subsequent free media about it - did very little to change the results between early voting (62-28) and election day (66-26).

Tim Mahoney
What happened in this Austin Community College trustee race? A student named Mike Reid was in the running for the board of trustees, but dropped his bid before election day. But Reid still picked up about five thousand votes anyway, which kept Tim Mahoney from getting the fifty percent plus one necessary to avoid a runoff. Mahoney will face Harrison Keller in the runoff, set for June 14th.

Predictions of the Place 3 Race
Those who dared to make predictions about the Kim-Shade race almost unanimously guessed the results would be within ten points -- or closer. Those kinds of predictions were blown out of the water by Saturday night's results, when Shade shellacked Kim in a major way, avoiding a runoff and unseating a sitting councilmember. Again, I admit my limited knowledge on city politics before writing this next line -- but I think Shade was the beneficiary of the small electorate as much as incumbent Lee Leffingwell was.

Shade won because most of the 35,000 or so voters went into the booth as longtime Shade friends or people actually knowledgeable about Kim and her past few years in office.

I visited a street corner on Friday, where Shade was doing some visibility. A man with a cup of Ben and Jerry's walked up and goes to the candidate, "Why should I vote for you?" After realizing he was serious, Shade launched into highlights of her stump speech. The man seemed engaged, but unimpressed. Then he goes, "Who are you running against?"

Shade told him Jennifer Kim.

"Oh, you'll definitely get my vote then," he said. And it appears that was a sentiment among voters that carried the day -- and carried Shade into elected office.

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