Many of our readers would probably not believe us when we say that this endorsement above all others was the most difficult to make. In fact, while we were prepared to offer endorsements in the council races weeks now, our staff did not settle on a consensus until recently. We debated issuing no endorsement or a joint endorsement but felt that neither properly accounts for political realities or our personal feelings.
In addition to the paragraph cited in our Place 1 endorsement, we wish to reflect on these words written by KT after the conclusion of last year's municipal elections. This quoted text is important to read to understand the context of this endorsement.
This is an open mayoral seat, a chance for Austin voters to step up, engage the candidates, and pick someone to lead their city that expresses what they want to see in their city. It's a free for all, and a chance to really select a Mayor in a different way than we select our council members. There is something that draws in and engages an expanded set of voters in selecting a Mayor, and it's an opportunity to have a much different conversation about who we are as a city and where we want to go.
Austin is a unique place- with energy, with youth, with growth, with different ideas of what it's future should be. Our mayor should be someone who reflects that. A mayor with character. Just like Austin.
I recognize there are prospective candidates from the current council, as many as three. But this race should be much more than a simplistic insiders debate over “Brewster or Lee” which I find rather small-picture and for the most part, unexciting.
All said- this our chance to elect a new mayor without it being under a cloud of scandal, without particular local issues driving the race, or without certain ballot questions taking priority. Who knows, that could all change in a year, but for 2009, my personal feelings about the race for mayor are ones based upon thinking beyond the insider narratives of today.
This is largely the problem with this year's Mayoral race. The insider narratives of a year ago, possibly even longer, haven't changed in the slightest. This race has been entirely about “Brewster or Lee”. The only other major challenge comes from a candidate immediately unacceptable to us (and hardly “new and inspiring”) in the form of Carole Strayhorn, who was a joke from the beginning.
For now, the political realities of Austin prevent Brewster McCracken's message from reaching electoral victory, even as a majority of the staff finds it more in sync with our call for a leader who inspires the city. At the same time, we're not entirely convinced that Brewster McCracken is the right messenger for his own message. But that point is muted by the fact that Austin's campaign finance laws and as a result, it's consistently traditional electorate, have made it impossible for all leading candidates to have a real conversation about the future.
Cookie cutter elections lead to cookie cutter campaigns. Let us hope that we reform or shock the system soon lest cookie cutter campaigns lead to cookie cutter candidates.
All this said, we believe Lee Leffingwell should, and will be the next Mayor of Austin. We stand by that. Even though Leffingwell's spent less time on the city council then Brewster McCracken, we feel he is more in tune with the citizens and other key community members who will work together to move the city forward. We have no concerns about where his loyalties lie, whether we can trust his word, or if he will work to protect and enhance the average citizen's quality of life as Mayor. Lee is relatable, he is humble, and he is grounded.
There is something to be said about candidates that get elected with concerns about their ability to represent the eclectic citizenry that makes Austin, Austin. We remember a candidate that could have been described as moderate, steady, or even milquetoast who stepped into office without a runoff against more entertaining contenders. We call him Mayor Will Wynn. And even those who had concerns recognize that he's become the Mayor we are proud to call Austin's own. (And that extends beyond jumping off bridges or doing the Thriller).
We agree with Brewster McCracken on this: The office of the Mayor is about promoting Austin.
But what is Austin? The people are Austin. Without you, there is no Austin.
Lee's in it for Austin because he's in it for you.
That's why we endorse Lee Leffingwell for Mayor of Austin.
On the Web: www.AustinLeadership.com
Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races. Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement.