Shea to Run for Mayor
Former council member says city needs vision and leadership
By Amy Smith,
3:31PM, Tue. Jan. 31, 2012
Brigid Shea, who 20 years ago helped lead a historic ballot initiative creating tighter water-quality regulations, will officially kick off her bid for mayor at 6pm Wednesday at Threadgill's World Headquarters. Shea is challenging Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who is seeking reelection with an impressive war chest of campaign funds.
After voters overwhelming approved the 1992 Save Our Springs Ordinance, Shea went on to unseat a City Council incumbent in 1993, serving for one term at a time when environmentalists and real estate interests were constantly at loggerheads.
Shea said she began exploring running for mayor after Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole decided to seek reelection to her current seat instead of mounting a mayoral campaign.
Shea said she spent much of December and January talking to various people about challenging a formidable incumbent for the mayor's seat. "I was kind of surprised by how hungry people are for more dynamic leadership, more vision," she said. "It's nothing against Lee; it's really [about the need] for leadership, for vision, for action. And it is also about the future direction of the city."
Matt Hughes, who has worked on political campaigns outside of Texas and served as a field organizer for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, has been brought in as campaign manager. Other staffers include John McNally and Vanessa Crook. Danette Chimenti is campaign treasurer. Austin campaign veterans Dean Rindy and Jeff Smith round out Team Shea. Longtime strategist David Butts, whose mother passed away this week, has reportedly opted out of signing on with either campaign. Butts had previously served as a Leffingwell consultant.
Shea said she expects to draw most of her support from the same voting communities (environmental and neighborhood groups) that helped deliver election victories for Council Members Laura Morrison, Chris Riley, and Kathie Tovo. As well, the candidate says she has strong support from Austin's small-business community.
A Shea vs. Leffingwell contest could easily turn into an emotionally charged political brawl similar to last year's council race between Tovo and former Council Member Randi Shade. But Shea said she intends to "keep it focused on the issues of affordability, education, water conservation, and greater limits" on the big lobby influence at City Hall.