New Austin Mayoral & City Council Endorsements, Sierra Club “Drama”

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Over the past week, a large bulk of local endorsing clubs and organizations have weighed in on the Austin Municipal races. Below you will find an updated table of endorsements available at the time of posting. Analysis below.

2012 Austin City Council Endorsements
Organization Mayor Place 2 Place 5 Place 6
Austin Central Labor Council Lee Leffingwell No Endorsement Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
Austin Police Association PAC Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Not yet considered Not yet considered
Austin Firefighters Association PAC Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez No Endorsement Sheryl Cole
Austin/Travis Co. EMS Employee Association PAC Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Unknown at Press Time
BAT PAC Brigid Shea Laura Pressley No endorsement No endorsement
Central Austin Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
University Democrats (UT) Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez No endorsement No endorsement
Austin Progressive Coalition Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez No endorsement No endorsement
NAAO-PAC Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman No endorsement
Travis County Sheriffs' Law Enforcement Assn. Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Not yet considered Unknown at Press Time
Capital Area Asian American Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
Capital Area Progressive Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
Stonewall Democrats of Austin Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
Austin Environmental Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
Austin Tejano Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez No Endorsement Sheryl Cole
West Austin Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
South Austin Democrats Lee Leffingwell Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
League of Bicycling Voters Lee Leffingwell & Brigid Shea Mike Martinez Bill Spelman Sheryl Cole
Austin Neighborhoods Council Brigid Shea Laura Pressley No Endorsement Sheryl Cole
Austin Sierra Club Brigid Shea No Endorsement* Bill Spelman No Endorsement
Texans for Accountable Government Clay Dafoe Laura Pressley John Duffy Shaun Ireland

The first thing that is clear, having attended or participated in most all the forums from this new wave of endorsements, is that the Democratic Clubs have now indicated their support overwhelmingly for all four incumbents. The one non-endorsement from the Austin Tejano Democrats was a result of a runoff between Bill Spelman and Dominic Chavez in which no consensus was reached. Chavez's past Republican activity played a role for some voters I talked to, which would echo the fact that he outpolled Spelman in last week's Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) straw poll.

Also of note is the Stonewall Democrats endorsement of Bill Spelman over openly gay challenger Tina Cannon. In the Austin Environmental Democrats which saw heavy voting, Leffingwell easily cleared the club's endorsement threshold with over 70% of votes cast. The League of Bicycling Voters is the only organization so far to offer up a dual endorsement of any kind, recommending both Leffingwell and Shea in the Mayor's race. Rounding out the list is Texans for Accountable Government who gave underdog candidates Clay Dafoe, Laura Pressley, anarchist John Duffy, and Shaun Ireland their support- the first endorsement for some of the candidates listed.

We have previously written about the Austin Neighborhoods Council endorsement here. Last Friday, and again today, requests have been made by the publication to ANC for a copy of their statement in support of this year's candidates. We have yet to receive a response but will publish it as soon as we hear back.

*Austin Sierra Club- When our first endorsement post was printed, Burnt Orange Report had received by email and confirmed in conversations with campaigns and other publications a different set of endorsements than the one listed in the table above. We withheld its inclusion in our table at the time, a decision that appears to have been the correct one, due to two factors. The first was we had not yet received an official release from the Austin Sierra Club with their endorsements which at the time was still a recommendation of their Political Committee. When Brigid Shea included their endorsement in her fundraising email this past weekend, I tweeted at both her campaign and the Austin Sierra Club asking whether they had released their endorsements publicly yet. Again, Burnt Orange Report has received no response.

As such, and because there is no other place where this information has been addressed, I have chosen to publish an email that was obtained by our publication outlining the original recommendation of the Austin Sierra Club's Political Committee. The voters, not only within the Sierra Club's membership (which in recent years had become more divided on the direction of their organization's advocacy, according to members), but the voters at large deserve to be aware of the facts.

Hello ExCom,

PolCom [Political Committee of Austin Sierra Club] met this morning to decide endorsements for City Council. Present were Erin Myers, Karin Ascot, Kedron Touvell, Peter Beck, Roy Waley, Scott Swearingen. Dick Kallerman is out of town.

Mayor- We endorse Brigid Shea against Lee Leffingwell. Leffingwell has not been good on our issues, most obviously WTP4 and Formula 1. Brigid has a proven record of working well on environmental issues. Her answers on the questionnaire are much more specific, detailed and action-oriented. LL's are self-referential and generic, a lot of blather about how he supports environmental issues. Brigid has a long history of actively working on our issues, water quality and quantity protection, cleaning up coal (had her own consulting business doing this), open space purchase and conservation. She also has specific ideas on how to make development pay for itself, whereas LL is vague on that question. There is a clear sense among us on PolCom that Brigid is simply more convinced of the need to change directions, whereas Lee is proud of where Austin is and where we are going (he says exactly that in his recent fundraising letter). We don't agree.

Place 2- We endorse Laura Pressley against incumbent Mike Martinez. Martinez has voted with Leffingwell on all the major environmental issues, with a few recent exceptions that occurred only within the campaignseason. In general he has not been friendly to our issues (including WTP4 and F1). Some on our committee feel Pressley had the best answers of all the questionnaire responses received – and wrote them herself! We had a difficult time trying to decide whether she is ready to run a solid and winning campaign, and we considered a non-endorsement in this race. However, if we are not going to endorse MM, we should endorse her; Martinez will not appreciate us either way. Pressley is intelligent, and excellent on all our issues. She understands the problems with SH45 (environmental and traffic-related), issues of equitablecost distribution in water and electric utilities, implementation of Imagine Austin plan, etc.

Place 5 – We endorse Bill Spelman. While he has not been stellar on our issues, the other candidates are not impressive.   We have particular reservations about his (likely) strongest opponent, Chavez, who is developer-backed. We believe that of all the incumbents, Spelman is the most likely to change policy direction and get on board with a more progressive agenda.

Place 6 – we voted not to endorse.  Although we like Cole as an individual, her votes have not been particularly helpful to our issues, and we do not sense that will change.  We received no questionnaires back from anyone else in the race, so chose not to endorse.

We are looking here both at specific individuals and at a real need to change direction.  We need to move Austin forward in an affordable, sustainable way, and we don't feel that is happening with the incumbents.  

With the exception of Place 2, all of our votes were unanimous. In Place 2, Kedron and Peter favored a position of no endorsement, so the vote was 4-0-2.

We would appreciate your approval/feedback as soon as possible.

Many thanks,


PolCom Chair

It is unknown officially why the Austin Sierra Club has chosen to backtrack on their endorsement of Laura Pressley in Place 2 since they have not responded to requests for clarification. Unofficially, multiple club members have expressed to me concerns over the appearance of endorsing Pressley, a Ron Paul supporter who is endorsed by Flouride Free Austin and the Longhorn Libertarians, and how that might affect the credibility of the organization's other endorsements. This is not the only race where reservations have been expressed, though it is the only one where the recommendation of the Political Committee has been overturned.

As soon as we receive an official comment or statement from the Sierra Club, the Austin Neighborhoods Council, or Brigid Shea on any of these questions, we wil update our readers. If any of the same feel that coverage of these facts has been unfair or untrue, I welcome you to reply to any of my requests for comment or make use of our standing Right to Respond policy.


About Author

Former Publisher & Owner of the Burnt Orange Report. Political Thinker, Digital Explorer, and Time Traveler.

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