Austin @ Large: Love Children
Never Meant To Be ... Mayor, So Why Are They On the Ballot?
If you call Gus Garcia or Eric Mitchell "legitimate" candidates, the pop-lib-anarchist wing of Austin politics will freak out and lecture you about true democracy. Okay, fine. Jennifer Gale and Leslie Cochran and Ray "The Vet" Blanchette are not "illegitimate" candidates. Let's call them "love children." Like bastards throughout history, they are pretenders to the throne where Kirk Watson now sits, some would say with his pants down. Even though Garcia is still the solid favorite, with only Mitchell and his quixotic non-campaign offering a "legitimate" challenge, there are six other people on the ballot, four of whom seem to have always been on the ballot. Because we at the Chron are nothing if not freak-friendly, consider the following our coverage of their campaigns:
Jennifer Gale. The transgender (sort of) Gale is the most versatile of our perennial candidates, having run for Congress and school board as well as mayor and council. (She had originally planned to run for governor next year.) She pulled 34% of the vote in a head-to-head race with Doyle Valdez for AISD vice president, which says something about the power of "female" candidates. The putatively homeless Gale reminded us at the Chronicle how easily she got her 178 signatures to qualify for the ballot, and identified as key issues more police and better officer training and "attention to the health and welfare of citizens." She is against light rail "as currently planned," but would support a train within the city center along with the conversion of streets into bike-only avenues.
Leslie Cochran. Leslie's gender-bending act is now a tourist attraction, and he's picked up the Downtown Freak banner raised in past elections by John "Hit Man" Johnson, "Crazy Carl" Hickerson-Bull, and flower vendor Max Nofziger, who ended up serving nine years on the council. Fat chance of that happening to this confirmed homeless man-about-town. In a letter to the Chronicle, Leslie echoes the widespread malaise about Smart Growth, but his main cause is the music industry, and he pledges to make sure "that which is 'Austin' grows with Austin as it grows." Nice line. He claims that, if the police could "put a variance" on the clean-up-your-dog's-mess ordinance -- "We've had to put up with their shit, all over" -- he will put a variance on the noise ordinance.
Ray "The Vet" Blanchette. A link to Austin past. About 10 years ago, Blanchette's North Austin home was befouled with so much junk and trash that, after numerous citations and TV news stories, the cops finally arrested him and condemned and gutted his house. He's been a candidate on a mission ever since, although he only shows up erratically. (He did spend an entire mayoral campaign in jail, on different charges.) When he does appear, he's usually consumed with eccentrically expressed means of vengeance against civic abuse -- but like most conservatives, he advocates a hands-off council that lets the city manager run free as the CEO.
David "Breadman" Blakely. To be honest, we've forgotten why he's called "Breadman," but Blakely is another interesting mature gentleman, though unlike Blanchette he is a rather nice man. (Both he and Blanchette ran for City Council last year in Place 2 against Rafael Quintanilla and Raul Alvarez.) Like Blanchette, he advocates the city-manager-as-CEO, council-as-board-of-directors line, which may be something they share with Gus Garcia, who's made clear his desire that Jesus Garza not be "the mayor's chief of staff."
That leaves two newcomers on the ballot -- Allen Phillips -- who we are told is an electrician; otherwise, we know nothing about him -- and Greg Gordon, the twentysomething owner of Waterloo Catering, who is darn serious and earnest. While one may question the wisdom of starting one's career in public service by running for mayor of one of America's largest cities, the guy's got spirit. He has a fairly complicated portfolio as well, at least for someone who seems to want to play the game as it is typically played. On his Web site at www.greggordon.net, he advocates economic diversity in Austin (good!) but also supports bringing AMD to town (huh?); backs efforts to reduce urban heat islands (green!) but proudly cites, in text and photos, his support of Bush and Hutchison (not green!); and lauds the HIV Wellness Center (tolerant!) while detailing his successful career in the Boy Scouts (otherwise!). When he appeared on Sammy-and-Bob, a caller badgered him into agreeing that gays should not be leaders in the Scouts, despite his brave attempts to duck the question as, uh, irrelevant to a mayoral race. Nice kid. Needs work.
Eric Mitchell. Considering his peek-a-boo campaign, if we did not all know Mitchell is a real person and not Dorothy Turner's imaginary friend, he would be no less a love child in this race than Jennifer Gale. But at least Mitchell, for whatever reason, is running only as much of a campaign as his popular support justifies. Gale, Cochran, Blanchette, and Blakely all seem to use electoral politics as an alternative to everyday life, which isn't very helpful to either politics or life. If self-centered attention-seeking is the bane of public life, then Gale and Cochran are no better than Kirk Watson; like the mayor's, their ambition is as transparent as Leslie's lacy underthings.