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Flannigan Takes District 6, Ousts Zimmerman

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

From the Austin Monitor: Don Zimmerman, one of the city’s most controversial City Council members, conceded to challenger Jimmy Flannigan yesterday after the early voting results were released in the early evening, with 12,542 votes (57.65 percent) for Flannigan and 9,213 (42.35 percent) for Zimmerman. The final count was 56.45 percent for Flannigan and 43.55 percent for Zimmerman.

The race for District 6 was not as close as it was two years ago, when Zimmerman eked out a win by less than 200 votes. This year, Flannigan won by 3,188 votes, which he credited to a “mandate for change” demanded by his district. “These results show that the community in District 6 wants to be a part of the city,” he told the Austin Monitor. “They want to be part of positive change.”

In his concession speech, Zimmerman said that fiscal conservatives were at a disadvantage during this presidential election year but that he was very proud of his campaign team. “They deserved a better candidate,” he said.

“We didn’t go negative,” Zimmerman’s campaign manager, Tim Kelly, told the Monitor. “The other side was really bitter.”

In the previous election, the majority of votes came from the precincts adjacent to Anderson Mill Road, which is one of the sites for redevelopment in Mayor Steve Adler’s transportation bond, which was approved in yesterday’s special election.

Flannigan had claimed in a September radio interview with Monitor publisher Michael Kanin that he and his Northwest Austin Coalition were primarily responsible for Anderson Mill’s inclusion in the bond package. In fact, he said that the mayor’s office said so itself. An email from the mayor surfaced shortly after, in which he asked staff, “How do we respond? Has anyone in our office made such a statement? Should someone call Jimmy and find out why he said that?”

On the other hand, Zimmerman has had his fair share of scandals. In August, during a Council public hearing regarding funding for after-school programs, Zimmerman addressed a group of mostly Hispanic students. “I’d ask for everyone here, including the children,” he said, “when you grow up, I want to ask you to pledge to finish school, learn a trade, a skilled trade, get a college education, start a business, do something useful and produce something in your society so you don’t have to live off others.”

Many residents, Hispanic or not, condemned his remarks, and a group of activists even smashed a piñata resembling the Council member outside City Hall a couple of weeks later.

Zimmerman told the Monitor that he did not think he made any mistakes during his tenure that would affect the outcome of the election. “Overall I think I’ve done a good job,” he said.

Flannigan said that running against an incumbent was more difficult than expected but that the spirit of his team had made him cautiously optimistic. “We know the work we’ve done, the doors we’ve knocked on and the calls we’ve made,” he said. “I’m overjoyed.”