The Austin Chronicle

The McGann Alternative

By Amy Smith and Amy Kamp, September 5, 2014, News

The third candidate in the District 9 race is Erin McGann, a Texas Depart­ment of Criminal Justice program supervisor who lives at the southern end of the district, near Oltorf. McGann hopes to win those District 9 voters who want a representative with a fresh perspective, but she acknowledges she has struggled to raise funding support. Unlike her two incumbent opponents, the first-time candidate opposes the urban rail/transportation bond proposal on the November ballot, mostly because of its price tag. And in recent forum appearances, her policy positions have rested mainly on questions about the cost or bureaucracy of city government.

"One of the reasons I'm running for office is because I've had such a difficult time communicating with city government and city agencies, and that was personal for me. If I'm having this trouble, other people are, too. I'm absolutely running on a shoestring. We absolutely have some very different ways of talking to people. People ask me a question, and I try to answer it clearly without a lot of double-speak. I haven't learned how to do that – I hope I never do."

The central city is heavily Democratic, and in Dem circles the main knock on McGann is that she's voted in Republican primary races. She says she's done so from the standpoint of a state employee in a state controlled by the GOP (she insists she's not a Tea Partier). She says she voted for President Obama in the general election, and supports Wendy Davis for governor.

But in her public appearances thus far, she also seems unfamiliar with the details of city government, and has focused almost exclusively on its cost. At the Workers Defense Action Fund forum, she said, "City Council has lost its touch," reiterated her opposition to any increase in property taxes, and called for general budget cuts. Asked her opinion of the Austin Police Department's proposal for a city booking facility, for example, she acknowledged the apparent need – then questioned the potential cost.

"I've been going to the forums, and I have a lot more confidence now than when I started out," she told the Chronicle. "I've learned a lot – campaigning is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I've learned how passionate people are about Austin and specific subjects. And their subjects may not be what the candidates are talking about – I think most of us care about the big subjects, but what we really care about are the things that affect us the most."

Considering the learning curve and workload of a first-time candidate, would she consider running again? "I run marathons," McGann responded. "This is a lot like running a marathon. When I'm in the middle of training I don't even want to think about running another marathon. So ask me in December."

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