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Meltzer, Nofziger and Katz feel confident going into Election Day

Friday, May 2, 2003 by

Mayoral candidates Brad Meltzer, Max Nofziger and Marc Katz all expressed confidence Thursday that they would emerge Saturday night as the man to face Will Wynn in a runoff for the top job at City Hall. Wynn said he too was expecting a runoff, but had not figured out which of the three would bring in the most votes.

Even though he is the acknowledged front-runner and has garnered all but two minor endorsements, Wynn has worked tirelessly on the campaign. He told In Fact Daily during a brief stop yesterday, “I feel good. We ran a big citywide campaign all over the entire city. We ran a positive issue-oriented campaign. I feel tremendously flattered by the number of volunteers that streamed in here, doing phone calls for us and block-walking with us. We had 2,000 people contribute financially to the campaign—all at $100 or less—It’s just remarkable . . . It’s just my intuition . . . that’s got to be a record. We’ve had so many requests for yard signs we are turning people away,” in order to hold back enough for polling places on Saturday, he said.

Meltzer, who has continuously criticized Wynn and his colleagues for not preventing the budget shortfall, predicted a larger than usual turnout. “I think the biggest thing in a tough economic environment is people are not happy and we’ll get double what we normally have. That’s why there’s more than the normal number of mayoral and City Council candidates.” Meltzer also said he believes there is great interest on both sides of the Austin Community College election. He has made that an issue in his campaign. He said he expected about 15 percent of the city’s registered voters to cast ballots. Nearly five percent (4.73 percent) have already voted.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said, “The 22,058 voters that we’ve had so far is a huge increase over the previous turnout the City of Austin has had and I attribute that to the retail,” locations. “Typically in small turnout elections, Early Voting constitutes one-quarter to one-third” of total turnout, she said. A conservative guess would be one-third in a city election, putting total turnout at around 66,000, DeBeauvoir said. “That’s a nice turnout, 12 percent. What I don’t know is if it will be typical of city elections.” DeBeauvoir said if the turnout is more along the lines of a typical November election, Early Voting would account of about half of the vote. Either way, she said, election workers are fully prepared. “We’ve got 1800 voting booths out in the field. We are prepared for 100 percent turnout.”

Katz said, “We’re very excited by turnout in early voting. I don’t know who else will be in the runoff besides me.”

Nofziger also was pleased by the number of people that have already voted. “I feel real good. I think I’m in good shape . . . I am in contention. I think I’m going to be in a runoff with Will Wynn. I think I’m going to edge Marc Katz out of a runoff and go one on one with Will . . . On Saturday, I think a higher turnout will help me. I think that will mean people are ready for a change,” he said.

Some recent election history

In 1997, when Nofziger last ran for office, 17 percent of Austin’s registered voters participated in the initial round of the election. Kirk Watson emerged as the clear frontrunner in the Mayor’s race with 48.47 percent of the vote. Ronney Reynolds, a sitting Council member, was second with nearly 25 percent of the vote and Nofziger finished third with 9.55 percent of the vote. Five also-rans each received less than one percent of the vote.

Reynolds decided he did not want to attempt a come-from-behind victory over a well-funded and obviously popular newcomer. He withdrew, leaving runoffs in Places 5 and 6. That election drew only 12 percent of the city’s registered voters. After Watson announced that he would step down to run for Attorney General, city leaders turned to Gus Garcia to take over. Fourteen percent of the electorate participated in the special election held Nov. 6, 2001, giving Garcia nearly 60 percent of the vote. Former Council Member Eric Mitchell, who had been defeated for re-election three years earlier, drew 16.6 percent of the vote and conservative newcomer Greg Gordon took about 13.3 percent. The other five candidates garnered only single-digits.

Last year, three incumbents went through the tiring task of gathering signatures to get their names on the ballot. But when the election came, only nine percent of Austin’s registered voters bothered. Turnout for the May 2000 election, when Watson was re-elected, was even worse—seven percent. Only four percent of the city’s voters returned to decide the runoff for Place 2, pitting Raul Alvarez against Rafael Quintanilla. Alvarez won by 201 votes.

Wynn could still win on Saturday without the time and expense of a runoff. Perhaps the outcome does depend on how many Austinites think the current Council is to blame for the budget deficit, and more importantly, how many are paying attention at all. Any run-offs in this year’s races will be on June 7.

Wynn not responding to attacks by Katz

About 50 people attended the League of Women Voters/News 8 Austin ’s mayoral forum Wednesday evening. That number included eight Boy Scouts who attended to learn a lesson in civics and earn their citizenship badges. They may have also learned a lesson in practical polemics as Marc Katz castigated Council Member Will Wynn and several candidates gave vague or complicated answers.

While almost ignoring the questions put to him by members of the League, Katz wasted no time turning his answers into attacks. When asked about his voting record—he hasn’t voted since 1990—he said not voting only affected himself. But he added, “The issue is, how has Mr. Wynn voted and how has he led the city into this $77 million deficit.” The panel asked Katz which services he would cut from Parks and Recreation (a question from a Boy Scout). Katz said the city shouldn’t have to cut services or lay off anyone. He added, “My opponent has said he made his money the old fashioned way—he married it. Will said that in Good Life magazine. You can’t marry your way out of this one. You gotta know what you’re doing with the budget.” News 8 anchor Paul Brown reminded Katz to refrain from making personal attacks, but the deli owner managed to drag the Boy Scouts into his answer. “We need to run it (Austin) like a business and not take things away from the Boy Scouts.”

Wynn did not respond to any of Katz’s attacks. Instead he answered questions about campaign contributions, the new anti-smoking ordinance and light rail. He said he was against the new anti-smoking ordinance and talked about a possible commuter rail along MoPac. The panel also asked him a question about the out-of-state architect chosen to design the new City Hall. Wynn explained that he wasn’t on the Council when that happened. He noted that the design lead was from out of town, but that the firm worked with local firms on the project.

The other candidates didn’t insist on repeating their messages every time they had the floor. Brad Meltzer emphasized, “No new taxes,” and sent a message to Austin Community College in his opening and closing by saying he is against ACC’s propositions to raise taxes. Max Nofziger ’s agenda was geared towards making sure people knew that he had sat on the Council dais before. He stressed experience with city annexations, Brackenridge Hospital, budget deficits, revitalization and public policy.

Perennial candidate Jennifer Gale reached out to the Spanish-speaking community by giving her opening statement in Spanish. Confusing at first and muddled in the middle, her Spanish became clearer towards the end as Gale vowed to close the Holly Power plant. Transvestite Leslie Cochran didn’t push his agenda—which is also not clear—and passed on two questions. Candidates Herman Luckett, Jr. and Christopher Keating did not attend.

Party people listen up . . . There are a raft of political parties Saturday night, although the serious folks will probably be hanging out at the county’s election central—at 9th and Lavaca. This is a new location. Various candidates and their campaign managers will be there during the evening, but the parties will be spread out over Central Austin. Mayoral candidates: Will Wynn’s party will be at Hill’s Café on South Congress beginning at 7:30pm. Marc Katz’s party will be at Katz’ Deli on West 6th Street. Brad Meltzer will be at Bismallah Restaurant, 6929 Airport Boulevard (Highland Village Mall, corner of Lamar and Airport) beginning at 6:30pm. Max Nofziger and friends will gather at Threadgill’s on Barton Springs Road. Place 5 candidates: Brewster McCracken will be at his campaign headquarters, 1802 Lavaca at 6:30pm. The Margot Clarke Campaign will be at the Dog and Duck Pub, 406 W.17th Street, at 7pm. Scott Marks is having an election party in Travis Heights at the home of Rob Owen and Meredith Rountree, 1920 Newning Ave. Carl Tepper and his friends will be at the Bitter End, 311 Colorado. Place 2: Council Member Raul Alvarez will be at Jalisco Restaurant and Bar on Barton Springs Road beginning at 7pm. All of those parties will start around 7pm. Place 6: Council Member Danny Thomas plans to celebrate at Hoover’s Cookin’, 2002 Manor Road, after the votes are counted. The candidates not mentioned above did not share their election night plans . . . Apologies . . . Yesterday, In Fact Daily unaccountably changed Clarke campaign manager Paula Nielson’s last name to Hoffman. We plead late-night brain-freeze and ask forgiveness. Also, what appeared to be a direct-mail expenditure to our researcher was actually spent on signs . . . No audience for final forum . . . Only candidates and campaign workers attended last night’s Ethics Review Commission/Channel 6 forum. Any clapping heard by those watching at home was from the assembled staffs of the various candidates . . . Happy day for Barton Springs Road businesses and neighbors . . . City of Austin crews completed work on the road last night after about 20 months of reconstruction and improvement. The city acknowledged 15 establishments between Lamar and Robert E. Lee whose business was probably impacted by the many work-related delays . . . Down payment assistance resumes . . . The City of Austin and the Austin Housing Finance Corporation announced yesterday that the assistance program would begin accepting new applications for down payment help on May 8. Community Development Officer Paul Hilgers said, “The demand for down payment assistance has dramatically increased this year.” He cited lower interest rates and an increased supply of reasonably-priced Smart Housing as reasons for the increased demand. Applications will be taken until all funds for this year have been expended and then the program will cease operating until October, the beginning of a new Fiscal Year . . . Waller Creek status . . . The city is evaluating whether the Waller Creek Tunnel can be funded through a partnership with Travis County and creation of a TIF (tax increment finance district) along the creek.


2003 In Fact

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