Garcia Says 'No Mas'

Bringing an end to months of speculation, Austin Mayor Gus Garcia announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election in May. "I have enjoyed my time in the mayor's office," Garcia noted in his statement, "and deeply appreciate all the courtesies the citizens of this community have extended to me." But the 69-year-old mayor, who began his electoral career 30 years ago on the Austin school board, says he wants to spend more time with his family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

Garcia's announcement is expected to open the floodgates for a hotly contested 2003 election. As of press time, the only announced candidate is former three-term Council Member Max Nofziger, making his fourth bid for the mayor's chair, his 10th campaign overall. (He last ran in 1997 and got just under 10% of the vote against Kirk Watson and Ronney Reynolds.) "I think the citizens of Austin deserve a choice," he told reporters Tuesday. While Nofziger is not considered the favorite, he does have a base of strong support in South Central Austin, where he's been an advocate for merchants and emerged in 2000 as a force against Capital Metro's light-rail plans.

The three people regarded as favorites to succeed Garcia -- Council Member Will Wynn, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, and former SOS board chair Robin Rather -- are all, at press time, officially undecided. Both Goodman and Rather had ruled out any run against Garcia. "I have confidence in my expertise, knowledge, and abilities, and the voters have always been very good to me," Goodman says. "On the other hand, life is short and there are a lot of issues I want to work on besides those at city-level government."

Rather and Wynn have made no secret of their interest in being mayor, but a race between them would divide many loyalties; the two have long been allies, and Rather was a key Wynn backer when he ran for council in 2000. "This is not a good time to fracture the community; in fact, it will take heroic efforts to unify it," Rather says. "The problems facing the mayor are so staggering that it will take all the leadership any of us could muster, on the council or off." At press time, Wynn had not responded to the Chronicle's request for comment; earlier reports and rumors had held that Wynn intended to run regardless of Garcia's decision.

Of other names in the rumor mill, both Council Member Daryl Slusher and his former colleague Bill Spelman have ruled out entering the race. There is also speculation of a candidacy from the right; names mentioned include former Tracor president and road activist Jim Skaggs and Sheri Perry Gallo, who narrowly lost a November race against Travis Co. Commissioner Karen Sonleitner. If Wynn or Goodman run, their council seats would be open, which could inspire another slew of candidates, including progressive activist and former Ann Kitchen aide Matt Hersh, who told the Chronicle last week he's strongly considering a run, and Brewster McCracken, who finished third this past May in the Place 4 council race won by Betty Dunkerley.

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