The Ruling Party

Something to Crow About

Who was seen on election night socializing happily with young Republican extraordinaire Todd Baxter one minute and El Concilio activist Gavino Fernandez the next? That would be Chad Crow, who, even as the vote tallies rolled in signaling his defeat by Daryl Slusher, worked the room on behalf of the power coalition he hopes to build. This bold new coalition, Crow believes, will someday dethrone the S.O.S. Alliance and the "social engineers" it helped elect to the Austin City Council.

From the vantage point of the three incumbents' victory party at Threadgill's World Headquarters, things looked good for the future of Austin's progressive power coalition. Triumphant Councilmember Daryl Slusher partied with supporters, enjoying a fairly easy victory and photo-ops with the likes of U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett. At least for the time being, the interests of what is now mainstream Austin seemed secure.

But back at Palmer Auditorium, the enemy still lurked. Though he had earlier said that being a losing candidate at Palmer would be "like being in the wrong dugout" at the end of a big game, Crow stayed until the evening's bitter end, glad-handing everyone from reporters to his fellow challengers to a slow trickle of supporters, who had been unable to help Crow marshal the annexation forces for the hoped-for spectacular upset.

Crow and Slusher

Chad Crow (l) congratulates opponent Daryl Slusher

photograph by John Anderson

Among those at Crow's table was John Kunkel, a resident of one of the Northwest annexed neighborhoods, and a sometime critic of the incumbent council. "Our neighbors haven't yet totally realized the importance of organized voting as an organized political activity," he said. "The inner city, for lack of a better term, has been organized for the last 10 or 15 years. We're newly annexed. This is our first experience. And so for our residents, it's important for them to understand that you need to come out as a group to get your views heard. We haven't totally learned that lesson yet. But we're working on it."

Crow expressed disappointment that he didn't get a higher turnout from the annexed areas (though they were some of the highest turnouts in the city, with strong support for Crow, including 89.5% in Circle C). He was also somewhat dismayed over the Northwest turnout. "We kept reminding them, 'Remember how pissed off you are?'" But apparently they weren't pissed off enough to swing an upset, or even force a runoff. Admitting he "didn't expect things would turn out much different when he woke up this morning," Crow said he was counting on former Travis County commissioner Marcos de Leon to siphon enough votes away from Slusher to force a runoff. But de Leon, who launched his bid in protest of what he said was the council's "selling out" of the Eastside to hostile business interests, pulled only 5.6% of the vote.

For those inner-city residents relieved by Crow's defeat, it's not time to relax yet. Crow is onto your coalition-building secrets, and he wants to use them against you. Even as the incumbents' supporters celebrated loudly in the background, Crow was analyzing his coalition's weakness and plotting his next move. "We're so fractured right now, and these guys aren't. Whether I like their politics or not, I'm extremely impressed with their organization and their structures. Three councilmembers and the mayor are up for re-election next year," he continued. "Those races start tomorrow. ... If the mayor does not run again, it's going to be a weaker slate of candidates than it was this year. Willie [Lewis] and Bill [Spelman] are sitting ducks."

Though he said he may never be a candidate again, Crow vowed his commitment toward toppling the S.O.S. power structure. "Some of us are Democrats, some of us are Republicans, but the common theme is, we all hate S.O.S.," he said. "You want the conservative Bill Bunch, you're looking at him."--Jenny Staff

Over Before If Started

Daryl Slusher and Congressman Lloyd Doggett
follow the televised election returns at Threadgill's.
photograph by Jana Birchum

An excessively perky Alyssa Eacono, who unsuccessfully challenged Jackie Goodman for the Place 3 council seat, stressed that Austin hasn't heard the last of her. The 27-year-old former legislative aide is not sure what she'll do next: "I just dive into things, as my family and friends can attest. I don't feel defeated at all," she said. "This has been a great learning experience." Eacono says she's already received job offers to lobby (though she did not say for whom). Going back to the Lege or running for council next year are also options. "I hear Gus Garcia isn't running," she said.

Meanwhile, straining to be heard above the shouts of "Austin Won!" and "S.O.S. Sweep," Goodman, who captured nearly 66% of the vote, reflected on the election results. "I think this council is viewed as positive, progressive, productive -- if I think about it enough I'm sure I can come up with another "P" word. It's very gratifying. I'm glad the elections are over and we can continue to implement the vision for this great city." Then she walked off arm in arm with Eacono to congratulate her on her effort.--Lisa Tozzi

The Beverly Griffith Show

It's 9:45pm Saturday and the big question at Palmer Auditorium is whether Beverly Griffith will be able to squeeze out enough votes to avoid a runoff with her nearest competitor, Robert Stobaugh, who's trailing her by a wide margin but not wide enough to call it a night. Besides, nobody wants to jinx the thing and declare a victory on the 10 o'clock news. "It's a nail biter," said Griffith's campaign strategist, Todd Main. Honestly speaking? It wasn't much of one. The minutes crept past and then, finally, it was clear there would be no runoff, with Griffith taking 51.2% of the vote and Stobaugh no doubt agonizing over the 399 votes he lacked to advance to the final round. The whoops went up from Griffith's camp. Campaign manager Leslie Pool grabbed a cell phone and dialed the councilmember's number to tell her the news. Main was on the horn, too, trying to get through to Griffith. It rang and rang, but Griffith was already en route to Palmer from the victory party at Threadgill's, along with council colleagues Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman, and a bunch of shouting, placard-waving supporters who looked as though they'd torn themselves away from a keg for this big TV moment.

Linda Dailey, who placed fifth in the field of nine running for Place 4, watched the hoopla with mild amusement. As the only African-American among the challengers, rumors had already started circulating that she would challenge Willie Lewis, the only black councilmember, when his term expires next year. But when the question was put to Dailey, she looked genuinely perplexed. "No," she said, flatly. "No, I have no plans to run against Willie Lewis." Dailey said her first preference, should she run again, would be to vie for an open seat if one opens up next year. "It's just too difficult to run against an incumbent, you know?"

As for Griffith, she was jubilant. "This is an affirmation of the council's work," she said, as she ticked off a number of goals for the next term -- job training ("toward jobs that really exist"), public transportation, and child care, to name a few.

While Griffith is quick to point out that she is a "strong public safety advocate," her stance apparently wasn't strong enough to secure an endorsement from the Austin Police Association, which threw its support behind Slusher and Goodman but stayed out of the Place 4 race. "There was a perception among the membership that Beverly had never taken a leadership role on our issues relating to equipment and manpower initiatives," said APA President Mike Sheffield. While Griffith may not have carried anyproposals for the police group, she defended her voting record where public safety is concerned. "Of the 210 votes on public safety issues," she said, "I voted yes 210 times."--Amy Smith

Snooze at 10

Mary Ann Neely, David Butts, Mark Yznaga, Leslie Pool, and Todd Main

Mary Ann Neely, David Butts, Mark Yznaga, Leslie
Pool, and Todd Main hover over election returns.
photograph by John Anderson

What if they held an election and nobody reported it? Okay, our local mainstream news outlets did report that the election happened, but barely more. The Chronicle has complained before that local television doesn't cover City Council elections enough, but previous coverage now seems massive compared to what went down Saturday night. Unlike elections past, when some stations cranked up as early as 9pm and went as late as 11pm (but neglected to adequately cover the races before election day), this time they simply devoted a few minutes at the regular 10pm time and moved on to other stories. Radio, which had often provided a better alternative to the tube, simply wasn't there at all -- KVET-AM switched to an all-sports format some months back, and KLBJ-AM merely provided updates during its hourly news breaks rather than pre-empting some goofy show about psychics. Even the Statesman was a little less comprehensive than usual. Yawn. We can't really get too sanctimonious -- in view of the widespread assumption that the three popular incumbents would easily be re-elected, even the Chronicle's coverage was scaled back -- but some reporting from the broadcast outlets on why these incumbents were such shoo-ins, and what policies we can expect to see roll forward as a result of such a mandate, would have been appreciated. Can anyone say Eric Blumberg? --Lee Nichols

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