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Public safety unions endorse Shade, Morrison, and Riley for re-election

Friday, March 11, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Perhaps the most important of endorsing organizations—especially when they work together—Austin’s three public safety unions announced their support for the three incumbent candidates for City Council on Thursday. Their endorsements are of particular importance to Council Member Randi Shade, the only one of the three running for re-election facing significant challengers.


Shade and Place 4 Council Member Laura Morrison are running for their second full terms. Place 1’s Chris Riley – who was elected to fill the seat Mayor Lee Leffingwell left for his current role — is seeking his first full term in office.


Riley and Morrison each have one official challenger. Though they had yet to file their paperwork as of Thursday afternoon, former Council Member Max Nofziger and Planning Commission member Kathie Tovo have each indicated that they will challenge Shade for her seat. The last day for candidates to file their forms is Monday.


Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks told In Fact Daily that the official presence of Nofziger and Tovo in the race would have had little impact on his organization’s endorsement. “We’re talking with all three (incumbent) Council members on a regular basis,” he told In Fact Daily. “We’re very comfortable with how they make decisions and the access we have.”


The chairman of the Austin Police Association’s Political Action Committee Chris Perkins echoed that sentiment. “The Council members that are in right now, we’ve got a working relationship with them,” he said. “They’ve got a proven track record.”


Bryan Fitzpatrick, a representative of the Austin/Travis County EMS Political Action Committee characterized his organization’s support as “overwhelming.”


“These three Council members understand the need for a high-quality EMS system in our city today,” he said. “They’ve demonstrated their understanding of the issues that face the hard-working men and women of EMS.”


Perkins agreed. “Our endorsement … was an easy one,” he said. “Each Council member has a proven track record (of) placing their focus on what we consider the most important function within city government: That being the safety of the community and the citizens they represent.”


So did Nicks. “The reason (for our endorsement) is very simple,” he said. “You go to these different Council Members – Chris, Randi, and Laura – they listen to our issues, they consider it thoughtfully, and they come out with what’s best for Austin.


“There’s an old saying that high tide floats all ships,” he added. “It’s not just considerate to our needs as public safety servants but they’re concerned with everything that has to do with Austin.” 


“It’s really easy to support the issues of importance to these men and women in our public safety units because it is so important to our citizens,” Shade said.


“We’ve seen over and over and over again that public safety issues are the biggest concern that people have,” she continued. “When they call 911, they know it’s got to work. Hopefully they don’t have to call it everyday, but it needs to work everyday.”


Morrison said that the endorsements were “a real honor.”


“I have so much respect for the men and women that serve in public safety,” she added.


Riley said that a thumbs-up from the public safety community meant “a lot.”


“Our public safety agencies perform such a vital function in this city,” he said. “I’m proud of what our agencies have been doing and I’m proud to have their support.”


The Central Labor Council jumped ahead of all the other endorsing organizations in February, also endorsing the three incumbents. The public safety employees’ endorsements are the first since then. Endorsements by various local political organizations such as South Austin Democrats and similar groups will be made in about two weeks. If Shade’s campaign can keep most of those groups from endorsing neighborhood advocate Tovo, they will have achieved a major goal for March. While Nofziger was considered an environmentalist when he served in the 1990s, he has alienated some old supporters by opposing rail for the city.


Shade has help from strategist Mark Nathan and consultant Katherine Haenschen. On the other hand, consultant David Butts, an experienced manager of Democratic campaigns, is helping Tovo. Nofziger has not yet indicated who might help with his effort.

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