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Anthony Bradshaw wants ‘to see an Austin, Texas, that is successful’

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 by Sean Saldaña

On Oct. 18, KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman livestreamed a debate that included all six of the candidates running for mayor. The 90-minute affair included questions about Austin’s pressing issues – affordability, homelessness, policing and transit – as well as questions about each candidate’s personality, priorities and objectives.

At one point in the debate, the candidates were asked whether or not they intend to run for mayor again if elected. Each hinted at some interest in running again – except for security guard and political newcomer Anthony Bradshaw. When called on, Bradshaw proudly stated, “I’m not saying!”

While his answer brought an unexpected moment of levity to the debate, it was also confusing for many viewers.

Confusion is perhaps the most prominent through line of Bradshaw’s campaign for mayor. He’s hard to contact, often misses candidate forums, and when he does show up, he frequently brainstorms ideas on stage.

When asked about Austin Energy’s rate increases earlier this month at the Austin Monitor City Summit, Bradshaw started off saying, “I’ll say energy is Austin. And everything is rising in Austin – costs, inflation – thanks to Joe Biden,” before landing on his final answer, “If we work together and we’re for one another, great things happen in Austin, Texas.”

Non sequiturs are typical of Bradshaw’s answers. He’ll often go off on tangents that are hard to tie to concrete policy proposals.

When asked at the City Summit how to manage city finances when yearly property tax increases are capped at 3.5 percent, Bradshaw asked the audience a rhetorical question: “What’s been really working for Austin? Is it the 3.5 increase?”

When it comes to figuring out his vision for the city, his online presence and campaign strategy isn’t much help. Bradshaw has garnered no easily visible endorsements, raised no money and has no policy papers – or even a campaign website.

Among the small group of people who follow Austin elections, Bradshaw has gained a reputation for parking his white Chevy Silverado, decorated with American flags and large signs reading “Bradshaw for Mayor,” on the frontage road of Interstate 35 and waving to people driving by.

“I continue to meet thousands and thousands of people out there. I mean, thousands of people, I mean, every day I go out and campaign,” he tells the Monitor.

Between his mayoral forum rants and his lack of presence in the media, Bradshaw’s campaign has been a mystery to observers of the race. But behind his verbal digressions and cagey attitude is a skeptical view of local politics, influenced by the city’s historical treatment of its minority communities.

When asked at KVUE’s mayoral debate whether it’s possible to put affordable housing in West Austin, Bradshaw took the question in a different direction, instead opting to talk about East Austin.

“I was in East Austin for 35 years and when you see people trying to afford – you see struggling Black schools, Hispanic schools – affordability. They cannot afford it. People in East Austin are struggling to make it and you see them being pushed out of East Austin because of affordability,” he said.

And while that response wasn’t a direct answer to the question, it was a reflection of the way many in Austin’s minority communities think about local government – with a general sense of distrust and skepticism.

It’s a worldview that comes from personal experience. Despite growing up in East Austin, Bradshaw attended McCallum High School in the 70s as a part of Austin’s school desegregation efforts.

“We rode the bus back and forth – really no problem with it at all. It was just an opportunity to meet a lot more kids … but you know, the family had its challenges,” he tells the Monitor.

He draws much of his worldview from his mother’s experiences.

“My mother was a hard-working woman … and she was barely making it, barely paying the bills. And she struggled to buy a house, she had to really work hard. She had to get loans and stuff to keep the house,” he tells the Monitor.

When Bradshaw talks about the issues Austin faces today, the specifics may elude him, but never the conclusion: East Austin, and the minority communities that live there, have been mistreated.

Bradshaw’s advocacy for East Austin comes from a place of social conservatism, focusing on things like law and order and the importance of religious institutions.

“I would say I’m definitely conservative,” he tells the Monitor.

He has expressed strong support for the police department, going so far as to say that the city could “double up” on the size of the department at the City Summit earlier this month.

When asked how to handle the city’s issues with homelessness, Bradshaw said, “Gather the pastors in Austin, Texas, and get the churches involved – whether you’re Christian, Muslim – and meet with them. And see if we can come up with some great ideas to help the homeless.”

Bradshaw’s connection with religious leaders in Austin’s Baptist, Methodist and non-denominational churches is one of his points of pride. It also makes him the only candidate in the race who has talked regularly about the role of faith-based organizations in addressing city problems.

Another aspect of his social conservatism is his staunch position against abortion rights, telling the Monitor, “I believe in protecting the unborn.”

At the KVUE mayoral debate, unprompted, he asked viewers, “Is abortion really safe? … Those women that do have abortions can’t sleep, go through all difficult changes and things like that. So, I’ve never seen a safe abortion. Not one. I’ve never even heard of one.”

A 2018 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that abortion in the U.S. is safe and effective and that complications are rare.

Bradshaw started off his closing statement at that debate by reciting the first part of the Pledge of Allegiance: “I want to say I pledge allegiance to the flag to the United States of America – to the Republic, the people, for which it stands, one nation under God.”

He then turned to the crux of his campaign message – that he plans to fight for all Austinites.

“Man, you want somebody with a new vision for Austin, Texas, that will make change, that will stand for you, that want to see you safe, want to see your community safe, want to see your people safe … I want to see an Austin, Texas, that is successful.”

As election day nears, the odds of Bradshaw winning the mayor’s race seem incredibly slim. In addition to not being well-versed on the issues, his opportunities to convince voters are shrinking. In spite of everything, Bradshaw is hopeful, telling the Monitor, “I’m still excited about it. I hope I win and I really hope things come out well.”

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