Kim is In

jennifer-kim.jpgJennifer Kim pulled a minor Rocky and got herself elected to the Austin City Council yesterday by a 7 point margin over Margot Clarke. Kim’s victory is impressive given her relative obscurity and lack of public exposure prior to the election, not to mention her ability to overcome Gregg Knaupe in the fight to win endorsements and the “anti-Margot” votes.

This is really only a minor upset, considering the dynamics involved. As expected for a run-off election, only 9% of registered voters cast a ballot on Saturday. Without the allure of a smoking ban or full council ballot, votes tend to come from those who are most dedicated to the voting process or most passionate about the candidates. Despite the reduced turnout, Jennifer Kim attracted 3,300 more voters in the run-off than she received in the general election. Whether you chalk it up to Knaupe conversion or youth and enthusiasm, Kim’s surplus stands in stark contrast to Margot Clarke’s 7,000 vote decline between elections. This was a repeat wilt for the enviro-candidate, who also lost to a surging Brewster McCracken in the 2003 council election.

Kim’s victory is a minor blow to the “old Austin” power base, but it seems more like an indictment of Clarke’s viability as a candidate for public office. Even pressing the dual hot button issues of environmental protection and toll road opposition, Margot couldn’t generate interest beyond a reflexive plurality in the general election. And since the two candidates sounded like clones on most traditional issues, some of Clarke’s base probably felt comfortable with staying home, or even swapping votes.

The city council receives some energy and diversity with Jennifer Kim’s election. I hope her emphasis on affordable housing will also bring this much-neglected issue to light in future sessions. But most of what she brings to the table is uncertainty. Her TV ad opines: “We can have clean water, clean air, charming neighborhoods and thriving businesses. This is Austin!” I respect her optimism, but this naivet

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