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Shade pulls off convincing victory over Kim

Monday, May 12, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Following a long week of arguments over what promises the public safety unions might have extracted from challenger Randi Shade, Austin voters soundly rejected Austin City Council Member Jennifer Kim’s bid for a second term on Saturday.


Shade received a significant majority of the vote—64 percent compared to Kim’s 27 percent. Shade held a commanding lead when the early voting returns were released shortly after the polls closed, and that lead only grew throughout the evening as individual precinct results were tabulated from Election Day.

“I expected it to be a lot closer,” Shade said Saturday evening at her party at the Galaxy Cafe. “I think that people were ready for a change, and I’m just glad that I was able to put together the team to make the case that I’m a candidate who can bring forward the changes I think that we need.” As a symbol of that change, Shade’s mother presented her with a set of glasses, which she said had been purchased “for about $5,” to contrast with the high-end glassware purchased by Kim’s office. That purchase had drawn criticism when the Shade campaign distributed Kim’s office expense reports. “I do think leaders set the tone, and I do think there’s something in between Vera Wang barware and plastic bottles that we’re trying to eliminate,” Shade said. “My mom taught me how to be frugal.”


Shade said she was looking forward to dealing with the city budget this summer. “The issue I’ve been most passionate about is really tackling the impact that poverty is having all across the board on our city services, particularly with respect to public safety,” she said. “When people’s basic needs aren’t being met it really doesn’t matter how much economic vitality we have elsewhere in the community…we’ve really got to make sure that the city’s working to make sure that everybody’s needs are being met.”


At Kim’s election-night party at Opal Devine’s on South Congress, the candidate stayed until late in the evening with supporters even after the trend of the Election Day returns became apparent. “I just want to say to the people of Austin that it’s been the greatest honor of my life to serve them on the Austin City Council,” she said. “I’m really proud of the support that I gained from environmentalists and neighborhoods and small business groups in Austin. I’ve been the most independent member of the Council and I’m proud of my record.”


Kim said she was surprised by the margin of the election results. “I ran a positive campaign at the beginning, and Randi Shade was attacking me for over six months. So I think that had something to do with it,” she said. While Kim said her campaign tried to focus attention on her voting record and her efforts to promote more affordable housing, she believed the Shade campaign and resulting media coverage did have an impact on voters. “I was really trying to combat the media coverage, which was relentless,” she said. “This is a tough media town, and so that was a factor, definitely.”


Campaign consultant Elliott McFadden also told In Fact Daily he was surprised at Shade’s margin of victory. “I think a lot of it had to do with…we had a campaign that was negative against Jennifer for a long time, six months. I don’t think we responded to that as quickly as we could have,” he said. “A lot of people thought there would probably be a runoff, and we certainly thought that was likely to happen.” McFadden was also critical of some of the media coverage of his candidate, noting that “there was a lot of negative-ness…both from the other campaign but also just sort of in reporting on the Council that seemed to focus on Jennifer, and I’m not sure why that happened. There was sort of that steady drumbeat of that for six months in the whole campaign.” He also singled out critical coverage in both the Austin American-Statesman and Austin Chronicle as contributing factors. “The Statesman and the Chronicle…I think…seemed to be, in general, sort of favoring Randi’s position more than Jennifer’s, so you had the more establishment media and the sort of alternative, progressive media sort of agreeing on the race,” he said.


Shade’s campaign consultant Mark Nathan pointed out that the Kim campaign had also engaged in negative tactics. “I think it’s a testament to Randi’s broad base of support that she was able to survive the ferocity of the negative attacks that the Kim campaign threw at her in the final10 days,” he said. “There were five negative mail pieces in a row, five days in a row. That she was able to finish with 64 percent was really pretty incredible.”


Kim plans to remain active in civic affairs once she leaves office. “I still want to be a resource to the Asian-American community. They’ve learned so much, but they still have a way to go in really understanding policy and politics…and how to be influential and how to speak with a strong voice,” she said. “That’s something that’s been a priority of mine before I was on the Council.” As for her most significant accomplishments in office, Kim cited her work for children and families. “Just shedding the light on how expensive child care has become, and how that’s a workforce development issue…to be able to bring that to light and to make that a priority of the Council. I hope they will continue that work to fight for those things, to fight for middle-class families,” she said. “And I’m proud of my work on affordable housing.”

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