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McCracken drops out of runoff; Leffingwell to be Mayor

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Facing a steep uphill climb in his quest to become Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken announced on Monday that he would instead withdraw from the race. In deciding not to pursue the runoff, McCracken saved the city an estimated $500,000-$600,000.


Most local election experts believed it would not be possible for McCracken to beat Lee Leffingwell, who had 47 percent of Saturday’s vote as compared to McCracken’s 27 percent.


At their joint news conference Monday, former rivals McCracken and Leffingwell praised each other and wished each other well as McCracken announced his decision not to further pursue the Mayor’s seat.


With McCracken’s departure, Leffingwell will become Austin’s 51st Mayor on June 22. McCracken, 43, will exit City Hall with six years of service and a number of important accomplishments and initiatives, including establishment of the city’s commercial design standards and initiation of the Pecan Street Project, an effort to design a new, clean energy infrastructure.


Leffingwell expressed the hope “that Brewster would be able to continue his work on the Pecan Street Project, which he was worked so hard on and I think is so important.”


McCracken said he would not be looking for a job with the city even though he wants to continue his involvement with the Pecan Street Project and other clean energy efforts.


Mayor Will Wynn was also on hand to praise McCracken’s work on the Council. “His ideas these six years that I’ve served with him have had a very positive impact on this city,” Wynn said.


On May 4, just five days before the election, Leffingwell filed a Class C misdemeanor complaint against McCracken alleging that he had violated the city’s campaign finance law by taking $8,000 more than allowed from out of town residents. The allegation was based on McCracken’s campaign finance report filed a few days before that. McCracken responded that he interpreted the law to mean that he could collect funds for a likely runoff if he did not spend them before actually getting into the second phase of the election.


In response to a question about whether he might drop the complaint, Leffingwell said Monday, “That whole thing was not a political issue; it was a legal issue and certainly if there is some other way to resolve that issue I want to very seriously consider withdrawing the complaint and just get the question (about donations) answered. It could be in the form of an Attorney General’s opinion or perhaps by some Council action. We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m very willing to consider that.”


Technically, the complaint could not be dismissed without the acquiesce of City Attorney David Smith or the person he chooses to prosecute the case. Because of the difficulty of prosecuting a sitting Council Member or having one as a complaining witness, Smith has said he would hire a special prosecutor for the case. He also has told In Fact Daily that he would likely ask the City Council to appoint a special judge to hear the case since all Municipal Court judges are appointed by the Council and none of them would want to decide the matter.


Leffingwell said his first order of business as Mayor would be facing the “significant challenges” of approving next year’s budget. He said he wanted to establish a Mayor’s community cabinet, begin working on a potential transportation-only bond package for next year and start work on single-member districts. For that effort, he said, “I envision establishment of a task force, led by one or more Council Members.”


He said he was excited about being Mayor and then deadpanned, “Yes, this is excitement.”

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