Al Austin Readying Rematch Again

Posted in: Wrigley
Dec. 26, 2007) -- Setting the stage for a Central LB political slugfest with citywide implications, local union rep/former legislative aide Al Austin today (Dec. 26) requested candidate papers from the LB City Clerk's office which, if completed and filed by Jan. 11, would make him a candidate for LB's 6th Council district seat.

The battle for the key swing Council position would amount to a rematch pitting Mr. Austin against now-Councilman Dee Andrews who won a May 2007 multi-candidate special election to fill the seat vacated by Councilwoman Laura Richardson (elected in Nov. 06 to the state Assembly and in June/August 07 to Congress).

In the May 07 contest, Mr. Austin had the endorsement of Mayor Bob Foster, multiple local LB Dems, much of organized labor and former Councilwoman Laura Richardson whom he sought to succeed in office. At that time (photo from March 2007) Mayor Foster called Mr. Austin ''a thoughtful, energetic person who will be tremendous addition to the City Council. I'm not only endorsing him. I'm enthusiastically endorsing him and I think it's essential that he win this election.''

Mr. Andrews, who nearly bested Richardson several years earlier, ran a grassroots campaign assisted by veteran campaign consultant Tracy Kittinger. Mr. Andrews criticized ''special interests'' and energized Central LB's formerly quiescent Cambodian community. When the votes were counted in the winner-take-all contest, Mr. Andrews finished first...and Mr. Austin second.

Conventional political ''experts'' had misjudged the election as a duel between Mr. Austin and Ahmed Carl Saafir (LB Civil Service Commission president) who was endorsed by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce, former 6th dist. Councilwoman/now Harbor Commissioner Doris Topsy Elvord and former Mayor Beverly O'Neill. Mr. Saafir finished third...and told us a few weeks ago that his 08 election plans were undecided.

In late November 2007, LB Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Randy Gordon told a freewheeling meeting of the Jr. Chamber's Beer & Politics that he viewed the Chamber's role in the May 07 election as successful in having prevented a victory for the union-backed candidate [Mr. Austin]. Mr. Gordon, who credited Mr. Andrews with running an effective grassroots campaign, stopped short of publicly endorsing Councilman Andrews' reelection at the time but referred to him as [paraphrase] a Councilmember with a good voting record on business-related issues.

Mr. Austin, a business rep for a powerful and politically active government employee union -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- previously served as a legislative aide to former State Senator Kevin Murray (D., Los Angeles). In mid-December 2007, we called his cell phone to ask about his '08 election plans...and it rang in Iowa, where he was working to assist the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign.

''We were in the middle of coordinating an event in Waverly, Iowa with former U. S. Secretary of State, Madeline Albright.'' he told us.

Mr. Austin's email continued: ''I have been in Northern Iowa since December 1 on special assignment with my employer, AFSCME. I am looking forward to being home with family, friends and warmer weather for the Christmas holiday. To answer your question [about his 2008 election plans]: yes, I am still very much considering a run for City Council next year [in 08]. The residents of the 6th District need and deserve bold and competent representation on the Council. However, my decision will not be announced until after the New Year,'' Mr. Austin said.

The resourceful Theo Douglas of beat us by about 100 minutes in reporting that on the day after Christmas, Mr. Austin requested candidate papers from the City Clerk's office. The City Clerk tells us that Mr. Austin requested the papers in person.

By Chris
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