The Long Shots

Although most people would not willingly hire a carpenter who had never constructed so much as a bookshelf, it is a curious principle of American populist politics that any citizen can run a government. So it is with Austin's mayoral campaign; in addition to Steve Adler, Sheryl Cole, and Mike Martinez – two incumbent City Council members and a lawyer with considerable backstage legislative experience – five other folks have offered themselves up to be selected as Austin's next mayor. Where they most strenuously differ with the major candidates is their opposition to local Proposition 1; otherwise, they've adopted a range of heartfelt but fairly vague positions. On the campaign trail, to the extent they've walked it, they have shown little knowledge of or interest in the actual details of city policies and procedures, apparently presuming they can pick all that up on the fly.

The two earliest and most persistent candidates have been businessman/musician Todd Phelps, and businessman/aviation mechanic Randall Stephens. Phelps began largely as a single-issue candidate, strenuously advocating the legalization of transportation network companies (specifically Uber and Lyft), and denouncing Martinez for somehow personally blocking that legalization. Lately, the Austin native, cowboy-hatted Phelps has tried to generalize his campaign to "preserving what's good about Austin" and an "all-of-the-above" approach (not including rail) to traffic congestion.

Stephens, a Williamson County resident who commutes (occasionally by bicycle and Red Line) to his job at ABIA, initially planned to run for Council, but when he learned a friend was already a District 6 candidate, he decided he might as well run for mayor. Initially his single issue was campaign finance reform, and he still rings that bell; his initial support for the rail/road bond has faded, and he suggests somewhat diffidently that an elevated rail system might be a more effective project. He's been an amiable presence on the campaign trail, arguing that his years as an aviation project manager have fully prepared him to preside over Council.

David Orshalick is an Allandale resident and retired tech author and teacher. He worked in the 10-1 campaign with Austinites for Geographic Represent­ation, and supported Laura Pressley in her 2012 campaign against Martinez. He entered the race late, grimly describes Austin's current officials as "callous, irresponsible, and spineless," and complains that none of the other candidates are proposing "plausible solutions" to Austin's problems. He promises to "cut property taxes, increase the availability of affordable housing, repair the broken mass transit system, and above all, improve the quality of life of all Austinites."

The two other filed candidates are Ronald Culver and Mary Krenek; neither has campaigned more than minimally. Culver has said he wants to cut taxes and end "boondoggles" such as the Town Lake Boardwalk, and reduce what he considers the city's emphasis on business priorities over citizen needs. Krenek has been an enthusiast of fringe libertarian groups and local Bitcoin experiments; she recently told the only forum she attended that she has "one foot in Occupy and the other in the Tea Party."

With eight candidates running, it is likely that Adler, Cole, and Martinez will dominate the voting, but it's also plausible that none of the three will garner a first-round majority. Voters will be able to thank the five hobbyists – or heroes – who are also-running, for enabling us all to return to the polls in mid-December.

  • More of the Story

  • The Mayor's Story

    Three contenders try to write a personal tale that will convince the voters

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