The Austin Chronicle

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Tovo Gracious in Victory

By Amy Smith, June 19, 2011, 2:06am, Newsdesk

Kathie Tovo surely must have felt vindicated as she looked out over a sea of sweaty supporters during her victory party Saturday night at Scholz. But after enduring a brutal campaign to defeat a well-financed incumbent, Tovo graciously thanked Council Member Randi Shade for her time in public office.

"I know now from running this campaign how difficult it is to do that with young children, and it's a tremendous sacrifice for her family as it has been for mine. I wish her well in her future endeavors and thank her for her service," she said.

The crowd of grassroots activists followed Tovo's lead and dutifully applauded, although many in the crowd were still smarting over the Shade campaign's vilification of neighborhood and environmental advocates, particularly during the run-off when development interests leapt into the fray. Tovo also thanked her future colleagues, Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman, and Laura Morrison, for taking "some very brave steps in standing by me." "That's 4-3!" a supporter shouted from the audience. Cole and Spelman stood off to the side, both wearing broad smiles as though they had each just won a grueling re-election run. Morrison, who was with Tovo for her near-victory party the night of the May election, was out of town for her father's memorial service. Former Council Member Jennifer Kim, whom Shade defeated three years ago, was also among the Tovo celebrants.

Earlier in the evening, before Tovo had finished the night with a decisive 56% win, she said she had been giving a lot of thought to how she would help mend relations on a deeply divided council.

"I think it's very important for me to reach out to the other council members and really let them know that I'm interested in forging a relationship and moving on, because that's really what's in the best interest of Austin."

Tovo was talking specifically about patching things up with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, who with Shade became a dominant force in shaping city policy and, as their emails would later reveal, alienating the other council members and members of the community.

Council Member Chris Riley may be feeling a little dumbstruck after Saturday's results. Three years ago he rode into office with the backing of neighborhood and environmental activists, and easily won re-election last month, albeit with less enthusiastic support from progressives. By then, Riley had already drifted over into the Leffingwell-Martinez-Shade camp. He supported Shade in her re-election bid and in the run-off, sending out a pro-Shade email blast the day before Saturday's run-off election. Once Tovo takes office, it's largely speculated that Riley will assume Shade's swing-vote mantle.

With that, Tovo's campaign manager Mark Yznaga offered some friendly advice to Riley: "Come back to Austin."

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