District 6: Zimmerman Out, Flannigan In
Victory swept over the race well before the final tally, keeping supporters in high spirits throughout the night. Early voting results showed Flannigan solidly ahead.
To a cheering crowd at Serranos Tex-Mex in Northwest Austin, a notably loquacious Jimmy Flannigan admitted he was at a rare loss for words. "To have the honor of representing all of you and everyone in District 6, it's really something that has left me speechless," he said. "I couldn't be more excited for the journey we're about to take together."
Victory swept over the race well before the final tally, keeping supporters in high spirits throughout the night. Early voting results showed Flannigan solidly ahead, with 57.7% to incumbent Don Zimmerman's 42.3%. The win, as Flannigan noted during his address, is a historic one: Flannigan stands as the first victor over a 10-1 incumbent; the first Williamson County resident on the dais; and the first gay man to serve on City Council.
Before the final results were called, Zimmerman conceded defeat, ending a tumultuous and tense Council era for the district. (The Chronicle did not attend Zimmerman's campaign party after campaign manager Tim Kelly banned this reporter from entering the field office premises.) In many ways, the win can be considered a referendum on Zimmerman's abrasive and even abusive demeanor on and off the dais, and on his council tenure overall. Zimmerman made headlines for attacking city staff, council guests, and even a group of Latino students whom he told to do something "useful" with their lives. His many vote abstentions and his "taxpayer-friendly" persona, in contrast to the several taxpayer-funded lawsuits he's brought, have also likely embittered district voters.
"I think this election is a mandate that shows that District 6 wants to work across the city and not be considered some other area that can just vote 'no' or abstain from votes and think everything is going to be okay," Flannigan told the Chronicle, following his victory speech.
Flannigan supporters expressed disappointment in Zimmerman's leadership style. The words "divisive" and "embarrassment" crept into conversations. "Zimmerman did nothing for our district. He did nothing to create consensus or to get things done," said D6 voter Alison Woss. "He acted solely for himself and not for constituents. And his personal views of LGBTQ people, immigration, climate change – to borrow a term from Hillary Clinton – is deplorable."
Flannigan tells the Chronicle his first priorities as a new member will be holding public meetings on Anderson Mill Road to ensure that those who live along the road see their needs met, and focusing on hiring a new city manager, an important decision, he says, that will "far outlive" all of the members' time on Council.
Over whistles and claps, Flannigan thanked his campaign staff, volunteers, canvassers, his partner, and the grassroots effort that led to his win. "It's difficult to beat an incumbent – even a terrible one," he told the Chronicle. "There were many parts of the city that decided they just couldn't get involved because they were afraid of the bully council member, but that's no way to operate democracy. Thankfully people that had never volunteered, never block-walked, never put up yard signs, came out and made a difference. And today we get to celebrate their efforts."
Zimmerman issued a statement on the loss on Wednesday. "For one," he said, "supporters of lower taxes and fewer regulations will have to work harder and organize better if we're to represent the taxpayers fairly in future elections. This I know we can do if we put our talents and resources together. Secondly, it's going to get very expensive to live here, and very soon. It won't be long before our political opponents will understand what we've been saying all along about the burgeoning size and scope of city government into our daily lives."