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McCracken kicks off mayor campaign; Leffingwell backers form PAC

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The race to be Austin’s next mayor got a jump-start on Monday, as Mayor Pro-Tem Brewster McCracken held his official campaign-kick off announcement and supporters of Council Member Lee Leffingwell announced formation of a political action committee to urge him to join the race. Former State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and former Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy have also both said publicly they are considering running for the job.


McCracken made his announcement in front of a crowd of supporters at HelioVolt’s factory in South Austin, which will soon begin production on solar panels. “With great humility and strong confidence in Austin’s future, I am here to announce my candidacy for Mayor of the nation’s 15th largest city and the greatest city in America,” McCracken said. He has already set up a web site outlining some of the key points of his campaign platform at


A top priority, McCracken said, will be boosting the economy through promoting the development of new clean-energy technology. He is proposing a community effort similar to the one that lead to the creation of Sematech in the 1980’s. “We can create 25,000 green-collar jobs locally, just as we created 25,000 high-tech jobs for Sematech,” he said. “We can put solar in 100,000 homes and business within the city limits of Austin over the next 10 years, and we can do that by partnering with the world’s best minds in the Pecan Street Project to innovate in clean energy just as we innovated in high-tech through Sematech, and we can do this by once again leading with our values.”


Also on Monday, civic activist Ted Siff filed a designation of campaign treasurer for a new PAC called Draft Lee Leffingwell for Mayor. Siff said he and Democratic activist Joe Pinnelli decided on Saturday morning to take the step to show their support for Leffingwell. “I can tell you the list of supporters has grown,” he said. “Our goal is to have a press conference a week from today (Monday).”


However, Leffingwell would not be able to make his own campaign announcement at that time.  He was just re-elected to Place 1 on the Council this May. That puts a crimp in his possible plans to announce for the mayoral spot. If he were to announce too early, state law would require the city to hold a special election to find a replacement for the Place 1 seat. There have been some arguments behind the scenes about whether that date is in mid-January, mid-February or later. However, an independent committee can announce its intentions and begin collections now, so long as its decisions and expenditures are not coordinated with the candidate.


On Monday Leffingwell told KVUE reporter Steve Alberts, “I feel a duty to make this attempt and so that’s what I’m going to do.”


But Leffingwell told In Fact Daily last night he was not making a statement that he is running for Mayor. He has not yet made that decision. “That was a slip of the tongue. I emphasized throughout that interview…I definitely would not make any statement other than that I’m seriously considering it. It is five seconds out of a ten-minute interview. I’m fully aware of the consequences of making an announcement at this point and I would not do that.” Leffingwell said the earliest he could make any type of decision would be January 10.


As part of that economic development program, McCracken said he would also promote new jobs in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare, and film and digital media. He proposed a job-training program for the healthcare and clean energy sectors and proposed an “endowment for opportunity.” That fund, he said, would be “modeled on funds created by California stem cell bonds and Dell’s commitment to people in emerging countries. This endowment could fund public investments in health care, affordable housing, open space acquisition, and public-interest areas prioritized by our community.”


McCracken also proposed setting priorities now for the city’s next general obligation bond package, which will likely go before voters in 2012. “My last commitment is personal. When my son Ford was born in 2004, I discovered what it was like to live in a neighborhood without sidewalks and without a park,” he said. “What I’m calling for today is that we create a renewed emphasis on improving the livability of Austin neighborhoods by focusing the city’s projected 2012 bond election on quality of life investments in sidewalks, neighborhood parks, and youth soccer and athletic fields city-wide.”


Those amenities, he said, would help people in all parts of the city and residents in all economic brackets. “We’re the community that…when you live by your values, and you unapologetically pursue a vision of the future that includes everyone, you can create a better future in your community for everybody,” he said. “That is the great opportunity for Austin. I believe in our future and I believe in us.”

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