The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Off the Desk

By Amy Smith, January 7, 2000, News

It's a new political season, and local Republicans are ready to rumble. But right now it's not the Democrats who are causing the agitation, it's -- surprise! -- their own leader, Becky Motal. Seems the chair of the Travis County Republican Party hasn't lived up to her "proven leadership" platform she rode in on in '98. Now she's got herself not one but two opponents -- Hank Gonzalez, a former county commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for county judge last year, and Alan Sager, who owns a huge slice of the SuperCuts franchise and is a big Republican donor. County GOP voters will pick their favorite in the May primaries. Motal, who had previously lost two City Council races, was supposed to have been the one to patch up TCRP divisiveness, but those factions have grown worse, we are told. "About the only positive [thing] she can claim," one GOP insider laments, "is that the party has raised more money." A healthy war chest is nothing to sneeze at, but party members say it's not enough. Bets are on Sager to win and, by the looks of his steering committee -- including big wheel Pete Winstead, Dell exec Mort Topfer, and Sen. Florence Shapiro -- Motal may be kissing her TCRP title goodbye ...

Of course, the TCRP's foibles are the Democrats' gains in one of the few surviving Texas counties with a Democratic stronghold. That said, Monday's filing deadline for state and county offices offered few surprises. Locally, county commissioners Ron Davis (D) and Todd Baxter (R) have a free ride with no opposition. Sheriff Margo Frasier, a Democrat, drew one little-known GOP opponent, Woody Edmiston. Republican Shane Phelps is expected to mount a well-financed campaign against veteran DA Ronnie Earle, so that race will provide some sparks. And Rep. Dawnna Dukes will have to work a little harder to keep her Dist. 50 job with GOP opponent and Dell employee Stella Roland nipping at her heels. But the most crowded field of contenders is over in Dist. 48, where Rep. Sherri Greenberg is stepping down and nine -- two Democrats and seven Republicans -- want to be her successor. On the Democratic side are community activist Mandy Dealey and attorney Ann Kitchen. The GOP lineup is a mixed bunch that includes conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, three attorneys: Jill Warren, Joe Anderson and Scott Loras; UT student Robert Wyckoff, community redevelopment booster Al Stowell, and businesswoman Maria Gavila Burbridge. Watch for more coverage in coming weeks...

The sad thing about this political season is that Tom Henderson won't be around to enjoy the fireworks. Henderson, an activist's activist and one of Garry Mauro's top dogs at the Texas General Land Office, died Dec. 22 of AIDS-related pneumonia. "Tom Henderson," said friend and lobbyist Bettie Naylor, "did more good for more people than most people will ever know. He was as passionate about clean air and alternative fuels as he was about human rights." Indeed, it may have taken Henderson a while to come out of the closet, but when he did, the story goes, he came out with a bang, jumping right into a number of causes affecting the gay/lesbian and HIV/AIDS communities. In 1996, Bill Clinton appointed him to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS where he co-chaired one of its subcommittees. Fortunately, Henderson was able to say goodbye to many of his friends during his final days. A memorial service is set for 1pm Saturday, Jan. 8, at Central Christian Church in Austin.

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