Baring it all!

I give to you my Halloween 2008 costume: Barely Political.com. And a glimpse of some of my crazy .com coworkers who dressed up!

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It's that time of year again -- and I'm not talking about politics!

Stay tuned for perhaps my second-most inspired/ironic Halloween costume tomorrow. As a hint, I give you this (and it's not Sarah Palin but if you want to hear a really awful joke I heard about her today that I can't repeat here, email me):



In the meantime, have you bought your tickets for Red State Blues yet? From the release:

In the heart of the reddest of the red states there is a grassroots movement hard at work to turn Texas blue. All that energy will have an outlet on Election Eve, spoken in the language Austinites know best: Music.

SNews Imageharon Jones and the Dap-Kings will be joined by Brownout and Austin music legend James McMurtry in an historic performance to ring a new era in politics; in the state George Bush calls home. The concert will be held at the newly renovated Austin Music Hall and benefits The Travis County Democratic Party and The SIMS Foundation.

During this one night event, local and national celebrities will rub elbows with grassroots activists and others energized by the election. "In the Live Music Capitol of the World, there is only one way to commemorate the beginning of a new political era: with a big party and lots of great music. I know Clifford (Antone) is smiling on from heaven," adds Kay Gourley, co-producer of the event. Antone's signature club was the venue for the first Red State Blues concert in 2004.

The concert will start at 7:30 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. General Admission price is $32/ticket and can be purchased at http://www.gettix.net/concert/?event_id=2777.

There will be a special reception before the show with a performance by Paris 49 and special guest Chrysta Bell. The $82/person price of the pre-concert reception includes admission to the concert, appetizers and drink tickets.

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Race & Taxes: My Closing Argument

My Uncle Billy is racist. That statement might cause him to disown me, or perhaps solicit several angry emails from my immediate family, but I wouldn’t be stating any more than he already demonstrates to be true – sometimes blatantly so. Uncle Billy lives in a small town of 2600 people in Mississippi, a town where the population has declined 10% since 2000. I often admire many aspects about my uncle – he dotes after my aunt, caring for her in a way that I could only hope someone would care for me through multiple surgeries and illness; has a patient, kind demeanor; is smart and humorous with a Southern twang.

But Uncle Billy grew up in Mississippi, and there he has stayed – in a place and a mindset where it’s acceptable to use the ‘N’ word among your friends. My aunt, a decorator and collector, makes frequent trips to a community they refer to as Black Town to purchase vivid pottery pieces hand-crafted by African Americans. A few years ago I was coming back from a pottery pilgrimage to Black Town when we passed a sign saying, “You are now leaving Merigold.” I felt shamefully ignorant for never questioning the town’s derogatory name. I had been handed that ignorance and accepted it. I had never paid close enough attention to the signs passing me by.

Racial ignorance, or racism itself, is something that I have come to understand a bit more. You inherit it, you acclimate yourself to it and you let it mold you to not affect your relationships with the people around you; the people like you. There are thousands of people in this country like my uncle, and they will go to the polls on November 4th with this ignorance settled deep in their souls. They’ve never been to Merigold, only Black Town. This is not an excuse for racism by any means, but a reason for their ignorance.

But there is another type of societal ignorance that is more insipid and below the surface. Because it carries none of the stigma of race and color, it is more acceptable – sometimes laughable – with the right crowd. The epitome of this ignorance came to me during the summer of 2004 when I was at a horse show. I found myself arguing with one of our wealthiest clients about politics. I used to incite conversations with her on all sorts of voodoo topics: religion, homosexuality and, being an election year, politics. An evangelical Christian, my client had invested a nearly equivalent amount of money in her three childrens’ private school education as she had in her one daughter’s equine pursuits. I remember the conversation dwindling down to her final statement: “Rachel, at the end of the day, I’m just going to vote based on my taxes.”

As a 20 year old getting by on about $30,000 a year at the time, I remember being horrified. It was my first confrontation with someone concerned about taxes. With all that was going on – the war, the recently reported Abu Grhaib abuse, George Tenet’s resignation – she was concerned about taxes?

By the end of November 4th, that is what this election will be all about. Will there be those same people like my former client going out to vote based on their taxes, reelecting a regime that will dangle an IRS carrot in their left hand while orchestrating a false war with their other? Or will there be enough people stirred up by volunteers and Obama’s inspiring rhetoric to drag themselves out of their nearly destitute daily lives to vote for a candidate who promises to act in the middle class’s best interest? I'd like to have faith in the latter, but I'm more acutely aware of the first.

And so my closing argument, to those Republicans who tell me they won’t end up voting for someone, “just voting against someone else,” is this: You may not be racist, but should you choose to cast your vote based on something as ultimately unimportant as your personal finances, then you ought to do a little soul-searching. Because voting based on your bottom line, and whether you can buy a new plasma screen with that extra $600 you’ll get back from the government, is just as despicable as voting against someone because of the color of their skin. You'll never know you are in Merigold if you only carry the spoils of Black Town.

And, yeah, I’m talking to you.
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On Voting Early in a Late Market

This is another post submitted by my mother, Libagrouchy. Many of the elderly I have spoken with -- on the phones or standing on their front porch -- have indeed come across as mildewing fruit, their generation's biases and prejudices fermented into a product that no one is buying anymore. Avoid the lines; early voting in Texas runs through Friday, 7 AM - 7 PM.

Austinites who haven't yet done their civic duty should consider early voting at the Fiesta Market at 38th Street/I-35. There's no better way to renew one's faith in the virtues of the melting pot that is our country than to run the Fiesta entryway gauntlet of Andean panpipes, Mexican imports, helados, and general world market atmosphere en route to casting one's vote in this election.
Particularly in light of the last-minute flare-up of b.s. surrounding who is and isn't "pro-American," Fiesta's polyglot customer base and bustling vitality are nothing less than restorative. At Fiesta, moms and daughters in headscarves, men in cowboy boots, women in saris, and whole generations of immigrant families are pushing carts through aisles that are little microcosms of international cuisine. Here, food is the battleground, not politics or religion. As far as I know, no one has come to blows over mangos at 3 for a dollar. In fact, given its status as a staple of Hispanic, Asian, and Indian cooking, the mango has a heftier international portfolio than Sarah Palin and might well qualify as a U.N. diplomat in a potential McCain administration.
Wedged in between the customer courtesy desk and a steam table loaded with chorizo sausage is the early voting station. Feeling giddy, I handed over my registration card saying, "I feel REALLy good about this one. Bring it on!" The 80-ish, silver-haired volunteer was not having any of that. She was irritable and short with me. Perhaps she was just tired after a long day of explaining to citizens that the the electronic voting machine "is NOT a touch screen; you have to TURN the wheel."
Or maybe, in the midst of the cultural diversity swirling around her, this woman felt outnumbered, disoriented, and threatened. It's possible she realized that, like the late-season peaches moldering on a nearby counter, her party had passed its sell-by date quite a while ago and was drawing only flies, and not many of them at that.
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An Open Letter to Ted Stevens

Dear Sen. Ted Stevens,

This is coming to you from a series of tubes. I have a question: Now that you are a convicted felon, can you vote for yourself?
Hm. Hope you voted early.

Toodles,

MR

P.S. Maybe now that you don't have a campaign to bother with, you should come down to Austin on Election Eve and drink away your sorrows with us at Red State Blues next Monday.

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Volunteer This Weekend.

Wherever you are -- Travis County, Harris County, Washington D.C, Killa-een -- make sure you get out and volunteer for local or national Dems this weekend. If you need some inspiration, just watch this twelve times.

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Kleinschmidt Steals Photo for Smear Campaign

Back in August, I wrote a blog entry about an stifling hot day when I blockwalked for Democrats running in Bastrop County, including Larry Joe Doherty, Chris Duggan and Donnie Dippel, the Democratic nominee for State Representative, District 17. The volunteers all met at a local precinct chair's house, and the candidates gave a quick pep talk before we hit the streets of Elgin. Shortly after the talk, Dippel and Duggan were good-spirited enough to pose for a photo with my OBAMA license plates, which I then posted on my blog.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I received a scanned copy of an attack ad against Donnie Dippel, featuring cropped-for-con artist version of my own copyrighted photo, showing only Donnie Dippel posing with my plates -- with no photo credits or permission from me.

Click to enlarge.

When my four tires got slashed a month ago, I was irritated with having to pay a $500 deductible but felt as though my plates were still something to be proud of and that the slashing was almost a badge of honor. Since then, I have tried to be more vigilant when I'm walking in my apartment parking lot, particularly at night -- not necessarily scared, but more aware.

But I find this attack ad on two candidates whom I have met and admire -- Barack Obama and Donnie Dippel -- to be not only an illegal use of my photo but the most deceptive type of campaign tactics that I have personally been dealt from Republicans. Dippel's opponent, Tim Kleinschmidt, is an attorney who has evidently decided that the copyright laws do not apply to him. Texans have had enough immorality and above-the-law politicians in the Texas House to be electing someone who chooses to be deceitful before he even wins the election. Kleinschmidt claims that he doesn't support one of the most immoral Texas House leaders, Tom Craddick, and yet the Craddick cookie-jar "Stars Over Texas PAC" has given Kleinschmidt's campaign $25,000. What's more, Kleinschmidt's own Republican base is having second thoughts about Craddick. Republican committeeman Mark McCaig wrote a guest column in the Statesman yesterday calling for Craddick to step down as Speaker, citing Craddick's "ethical cloud" as having "cast a shadow" over Craddick's Republican leadership in the Texas House.

This election has come down to baseless Republicans like Tim Kleinschmidt using my personal property for their high-gloss smear campaigns. It's a testament to Donnie Dippel's hardworking, honest practices that the worst thing Kleinschmidt can think of is to tie him to Barack Obama, who leads by double-digits across the polls. I suppose Kleinschmidt doesn't want anyone who is considering voting for Obama to vote for him. Nevertheless, I believe in my volunteer efforts for these Democrats -- not because they are Democrats but because they are honest, intelligent and have a sincere desire to change the way our country works -- should not be slandered in a political ad. And while Kleinschmidt may be proud of himself from stealing from a local progressive blogger (who eats BBQ at Southside and used to trailer her horses to the Elgin Veterinary Clinic for their check-ups) he's clearly ignorant or unsympathetic to the fact that this kind of campaigning leads to the violence that I experienced when my tires were slashed.

My direct statement to Mr. Kleinschmidt, if I ever saw him out in the district, would be this: It is reprehensible that you have chosen to steal my volunteering experience to manipulate it for your negative ads. But more vile, and what is ultimately more important, is the moral code you have that would allow you to do that.

Click here to contribute to the Donnie Dippel campaign.
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The Killer V's.

(crossposted at HuffPo)

Texas has a long history of breaking quorum to influence change. In 1979, the original "Killer Bees" were State Senators who went into hiding to prevent a presidential primary bill from being passed. More recently, in 2003, Texas Democrats faced down a Delay-backed redistricting bill, which prompted House members, later known as the "Killer D's," to leave the Lone Star state for Ardmore, Oklahoma and eleven State Senators fleeing in jets to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Texas Democrats are now being asked by the Obama campaign to help in crucial battleground states, a plan that somewhat infuriates local campaigns scrounging for down-ballot volunteers. In signing up for the "Road Trip for Change," a bus trip from Austin to Albuquerque organized by local Texans for Obama, I found that the convenience of getting involved was one of the major appeals -- everything was arranged, and all I needed to do was show up with my $50 check.

My initial thought upon boarding the Obama "Road Trip for Change" bus was We're going to drive all the way to New Mexico in this? Not exactly business class, the Bejucos bus seemed to have skimped a bit on leg room and arm rests. Nevertheless, the hodge podge group of about fifty I was assigned to -- known as the Blue Team -- climbed aboard cautiously, placing their pillows and blankets carefully around themselves, looking crisp and fresh and ready for adventure.

Our driver climbed aboard, with the well-heeled trucker gut and squinty eyes from years of driving trucks. He had been a trucker, he told one of my busmates, but after having several strokes, he had to leave the union. He was also diabetic, which made his penchant for donuts and coffee each morning a bit confounding.

"The bathroom," Jerry announced, "is like an outhouse. So don't use it unless it's an emergency. An' if you do have to use it, put the lid down. That'll help keep the smell down for the people in the back."

Five rows from the back of the bus, I observed those around me looking uncomfortably at one another. To my left, I later learned, I had Kate, a New York transplant; and Jo, a retired grandmother of four ("with one on the way!") knitting furiously when she wasn't typing on her laptop; and Anne, a vegetarian lawyer who liked to stay up late. In front of me were Mike and Julian, a gay couple who wisely brought a bottle of wetwipes. As Jerry finished his speech about the bathroom etiquette, Mike piped up "Hey Jerry, who are you going to vote for?"

Jerry made a face and said "Let's just not get into that."

The rest of the trip consisted of countless lines: lines to get off the bus, lines to get into the one ladies' restroom in Sonora, Texas, lines to get on the bus, lines to check in at the hotel, lines at McDonald's. But despite the tedium, there was no denying that we were supporters aligned. There was always something to listen to, a point of view that hadn't been considered or a nugget of breaking Obama campaign news to lift our morale.

Walking through the neighborhoods of Albuquerque, I found that most of the doors I knocked on were either enthusiastically Democratic or apologetically Republican. One woman, a Republican from Texas, followed me all the way from her porch to the street talking to me about why she had never voted for a Democrat other than Pete Laney.

To call the trip inspiring doesn't do it justice, and objective words fail me. We knocked on 6000 doors in less than 48 hours, and covered turf that spanned across the city. By the time the sun was setting on the mountains as we left Albuquerque yesterday, I felt what Katharine Lee Bates must have felt when she was composing "America the Beautiful." The brotherhood was inescapable, ensconced in the glow of the purple mountain majesties.

As for Jerry, he delivered a busload of pushy Democrats safely back to Austin early this morning. I went to say goodbye to him, and in the half-asleep euphoria I was in, asked him if we'd changed his mind. Jerry smiled and said "You got me thinking about it."

"Thinking about it? What's left to think about?"

Jerry nodded and said "Alright."

"It's not alright until we shake!" I said, and we shook hands.

I don't know where an old truck driver with low blood sugar fits in on Gallup polls, but I do know where Democrats can make a difference. It's in their critical mass; their willingness to displace themselves and sleep on top of one another; their lack of showers but surplus of goodwill. Lobbyists can't raise that kind of value, nor can ActBlue. No amount of mail pieces or media buys would have ever convinced Jerry to cast his vote for Obama.

But I like to think that the Killer V's -- that's V for Volunteers -- did.

free video hosting
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Check out the video here or watch below.




My photos from the trip can be downloaded here. Kate also got some great ones and emailed me the link, which you can find here.
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This is for the Blue Team (and Jerry):

You guys amaze me. All of you. There was a moment last night as we drove through the mountains at sunset, nursing the screwdriver that Julian & Mike were kind enough to make for me, when I was overcome by the spirit in the air of the bus. We were all so different -- black, white, gay, straight, married, single -- yet all literally and figuratively being driven by a common goal. I have never been more proud of my fellow (wo)mankind.

Pictures will be up as soon as I survive the workday (which currently is at a 50% chance).
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My Friends, I hear New Mexico is lovely this time of year.

Tomorrow after work at 7 PM, I will board a coach bus to be shuttled overnight to Albuquerque, NM to hit the bricks for Obama. I will return at 7 AM on Monday morning and head straight to work. So you are on your own for the weekend while I'm out furthering the democratic process.
I have packed ear plugs, a bottle of tequila and all of my tolerance for saturating myself in a social situation.

Bt-dubs, I stumbled across comedy BINGO night (or they stumbled across me, I'm not really sure what happened) at Mother Eagan's tonight. Trivia People, are you tired of having your ass kicked by the stupid Chewbacca Position team? Tired of having to yell "SHHOOOES!" over an overzealous teammate's answer? Tired of Mayor Wynn stealing the limelight and embarrassing you in front of your out-of-town guests? Well, my friends, I have one word for you: B-I-N-G-O. Far superior and way more fun. Thursday nights at 8 PM. Who's with me? Oh and for you nerd supremes, there's still an element of trivia -- the free space is a trivia question that you have to get correct.

If they had someone playing Billy Joel on a piano, I think my life might make sense again.
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CD10: Congrats to LJD!

Congrats to Larry Joe Doherty and his team for being added to the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program. From the release:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Tuesday added Larry Joe Doherty to its "Red to Blue" program. Doherty earned a spot in the competitive program by establishing significant local support and skillfully showing voters that he stands for change and will represent new priorities.

"Larry Joe Doherty is running a solid campaign and is committed to making things easier for middle class families in their districts," said DCCC Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen. "With less than 21 days to make his case for change to voters, the Red to Blue program will give Larry Joe the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November."


I still have a steak riding on LJD winning by 8 points, so this is especially good news for me. And because I think LJD is going to be a great Congressman.

In related news, I am going on a bus to New Mexico to canvass for Obama this weekend. Discuss whether I will live to regret that in the comments section. One person, when I told them of my plan, said "It's like when you decided to sleep in a cardboard box for a night on your birthday!"
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Midnight at the Corner of South Lamar & Change.

South Lamar, one of Austin's major arteries, never seemed so empty than it did at midnight last Monday. We had been waving our signs since eight o'clock, working the graveyard shift of the final day of the Travis County Democratic Party’s non-partisan voter registration drive; exhuming potential voters from their apathy and procrastination. I held a poster board decorated with a Sharpie purchased down the street by one of the other volunteers, a recent graduate from St. Ed’s. He introduced himself as Brandon and asked me if I was in school, peering at me over the hastily written words "Vote HERE! NOW! By MIDNIGHT!"

"No, I have a job.” A Tahoe approached and I shook my sign at it as it whipped past, urban humidity hitting me in the face.

"Lucky," he said, as if I told him I had won a trip to the Bahamas, then turned to wave his sign at a bus rolling past us. "Reggg-ister to VOTE!" He'd developed a chant and was yelling it at sealed-up cars without a hint of irony.

My left arm was sore from pointing wildly in the direction of the Thundercloud Subs, with the registration table out front manned by two other volunteers. I had jumped around all of Austin trying to find a table that needed another volunteer. Frustrated, I had called one of the volunteer coordinators at eight and told her that the South Lamar sandwich shop was way overstaffed for the trickle of cars rolling by. Surely there was somewhere else that needed me more. "Increase street visibility and wait for the 10 o'clock rush," she said briskly. Over and out.

And so it was that I found myself in the backyard of my youth, across from the Sonic and Kerbey Lane CafĂ© I knew so well, haranguing cars with my sign and jumping around on the curb, nearly getting hit by the occasional CapMetro bus. Every time a car turned in to the Thundercloud parking lot, we cheered and shook our fists – even though sometimes all the person really wanted was a sub sandwich.

But as midnight approached, the cars driving by became scarce and the indigent staggering by became more frequent. I stood under the glow of the 7-Eleven sign, watching as people entered the gas station to feed their addictions. Cigarettes. Gas. Booze.

A voice from the darkness: “What are you doing?” I turned and saw a black man, cradling what appeared to be a crack pipe in his left hand, cigarette hanging off his lip.

“Registering voters…are you registered to vote?” I asked. He shook his head violently, dropped the object in his hand, and walked away with such a purpose that I didn’t pursue him. I took a few steps to inspect his drug paraphernalia. It looked like something I’d seen in a glass store in Venice – millefiori, as my mom would say – a tiny kaleidoscope of oranges and blues and whites. I wondered if he knew he’d dropped such a beautiful object. I wondered if he knew who Barack Obama was. For both, impossible that he couldn’t.

At two minutes until midnight, I began to abandon my street corner and walk back across the street as a coupe rolled into the parking lot and a man stepped out. I took my posterboard sign and gave it to Brandon, and we hesitated for a moment as the final person registered.

Long, dark hair and tattoos up his arms, it was a man not much older than me filling out his form painstakingly, grease stains on his hands. “And I sign here?” The woman manning the table nodded, smiling and handing him his receipt. “And here are some places where you can vote early. Be sure to take this and a photo ID with you to the polls.” The man folded the slip of paper carefully and put it in his wallet, then let it fall to his side and dangle from the chain clipped to his belt. He lingered there for a moment and an expectant pause held in the air as all four of the volunteers – myself included – stared at him, the final registrant in the final seconds of the final day. I looked up. At any minute the sky could open and balloons and confetti might shower down upon him.

“Yeah,” he said, sounding relieved. “Like, last time, man. My whole family, parents, uncles –they, they were like, all about Bush, y’know? And like, man. Now. This time. I wasn’t going to like, you know, let that happen.”

Now. This time. Yeah. I know.
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My Bailout Plan

Since I haven't felt up to blogging, my mom asked if she could do a guest blog. I guess she assumes someone actually reads this. Actually, she texted me and asked if she could do a guest blog.

Oh, how low we have sank.

Without further adieu, I bring you Lib-a-grouchy:

I'm starting to get the feeling that "the people in charge" are trying to reshape our notion of housing. Remember McMansions and how we all wanted one and really, let's face it, we deserved one? I mean it's like an American right, isn't it? LIke an SUV and a Wii and that kind of thing? But now suddenly overnight, the wind has shifted and the breeze from the landfill isn't so pretty.

I just got my current AARP Bulletin, a charming rag sent to old people that is filled with tips on topics like how to stretch a can of catfood into two meals. And there's an article about homelessness, which is apparently on the rise among us geezers. The article mentions that the super-affluent town of Santa Barbara, CA is among a number of U.S. cities that is turning municipal parking lots into "relatively safe places" where people can sleep in their cars. "Communities are recognizing the viability of people living in their vehicles," notes a Santa Barbara official.

What a revelation! My car is a viable place to live. I'm going to remember that. Especially now that I have learned that this bailout plan Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson devised actually has an official moniker. It's called the Troubled Asset Relief Plan or TARP. I'm really excited about this acronym. I think I might even invest in a good tarp, because you never know when you might need one. TO LIVE UNDER.

Is it possible Mr Paulson is floating a trial balloon on the viability of tarp-based housing? If so, my preference for the time being, would be the viability of my car.

And as regards tone-deaf acronyms, Mr. Paulson--let's put some balls into it. Some suggestions:

Value-Added Necessary Deal Of Working New and Bigger Yields To Harbor Every Rich Idiot Voicing Endless Rot (VANDOWNBYTHERIVER)
Or perhaps: Make Your Crappy Ass-Loan Refinanced (MYCAR)
Or: Fiduciary Upload Credit & Extension Deployment (FUC&ED)
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Shameless Request

To all my friends who have donated money to Deductibles for Obama and all of my other pursuits, thank you. Here's a free way to help me now. All you need is a Facebook account.

Become a fan of PetRelocation today!

Thank you, my friends!
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Cool Hand McCain

My friends, I know I haven't blogged in like, forever, but I've been a little disinterested (it's true) and also trying to battle Republicans and a head cold.

But, my friends, I want this shirt. Kudos to Tali for the link.

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My Exclusive Interview with the Mayor's Replacement

Last night at Sholz's at the Travis County Democrats' Debate Watch Party, I caught Mayor Wynn in the corner of my eye, standing with the masses watching the debate. The pensive look on his face made me wonder how he as a mayor felt about a fellow former mayor suddenly being catapulted to the national spotlight.

Unfortunately, the Mayor booked it out of Sholz's before I could interview him, so I had to settle for the next best thing. Andy Brown, TCDP Chair, was wandering around handing out "tickets" to the free debate watch party at the Long Center on the 7th. He agreed to answer my mayoral questions as a stand-in for Will Wynn.

I leave you to be the judge.

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Makes you wonder what he's got against burlap...

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