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Shea: Down but Not Out

Fri., May 18, 2012

Brigid Shea
Brigid Shea
Photo by Jana Birchum

Shea: Down but Not Out

As Saturday's election night party at Mexita's came to a close, Brigid Shea delivered a pep talk to a cheering crowd, urging them to continue pressing for change at City Hall. "This election was about the future of our city," she told supporters. "Thank you for being so passionate about your city. We have raised the issue of affordability, we have changed the conversation around incentives. ... We did that, you guys!" She pointed to changes already made in campaign finance loopholes during the course of the mayoral race, and rallied the troops to continue watchdogging who's getting the big city contracts at the city. Addressing neighborhood battles, she said, "We have an enviable city where our urban neighborhoods are still beautiful and thriving because of the passion. You guys are making Austin what it is, not the mayor and council!"

Conceding to Leffingwell by phone, Shea told him she hopes affordability issues make it onto the agenda. "I feel we raised really substantial issues that are on the minds of so many Austinites," she said later.

Starting the race late in the game, Shea initially lent her campaign $25,000, and toward the end added another $40,000. "We felt we needed to do that to get our message out," she said. "I think that helped us get closer." Similarly, four days before the election, Leffingwell lent his campaign $30,000, avoiding a run-off but leaving his campaign with a $90,000 debt. With the additional funding, he pounded Shea on her contracts with the city and on her past support for corporate incentives, which she campaigned against this time around.

In the end, Leffingwell's 21-point lead in early voting melted to just 10 percentage points on election day – but it became clear early in the evening that the late surge wasn't going to be enough to force a run-off.

At the end of Saturday evening, Save Our Springs Alliance's Bill Bunch, who has had a few famous feuds with Shea, hugged the defeated candidate and kissed her on the forehead. "You're amazing," he said. Shea's next move? She isn't sure, but she doesn't think it will involve city contracting. She has a developing interest in changing consumer behavior to help fight global warming. One thing is certain, she said: "I will continue being active as a citizen." – Amy Smith

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