Le Lowry, Board candidate in political office since age 24

When I ran for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees, I was already serving as an elected Representative of the Poor with the City of San Antonio, and as a precinct chair with the Bexar County Democratic Party. This was my first run for office outside of those two positions. The article posted below is from San Antonio College’s student newspaper, the Ranger.

Le Lowry
Board candidate in political office since age 24
By: Amber Whittaker
Posted: 4/6/06

If 30-year-old Le Lowry is elected to the district board, his age won’t be the only characteristic to distinguish him from other trustees. Lowry is opposing incumbent Charles Conner, board chairman and District 7 representative.

Lowry is a Buddhist and a self-described “Army brat” who was raised in South Korea and Okinawa. He now lives with his family on the North Side. The teaching assistant at North East Transition School has struggled with Tourette’s syndrome and bouts of depression stemming from the disorder.

“When you make funny noises, people pick on you. I spent a lot of time on my own,” Lowry said, referring to adolescence before he was diagnosed with Tourette’s.

The disorder, which manifests itself as quick, sporadic grunts instead of the commonly recognized erratic string of words or profanity, was ignored as a quirk until he was 19.
But it is no longer an obstacle for him. “It’s been a source of strength for me,” Lowry said.
He said because of the depression, he may never know consistent happiness, “But I’m going to be damned if I’m going to let someone have a miserable life if they don’t have to.”

That political conviction was strengthened in 1999 when Lowry campaigned in Minnesota for the implementation of a fusion ballot, which would allow candidates to run as a member of multiple parties on the same ballot. Lowry has since abandoned the cause. But not his civic duty. “We have to do more than vote,” he said about young people.

In 2000, Lowry was elected as an alternate to the Community Action Advisory Board as a representative for the poor, as well as a Democratic precinct chair. In January he became a regular member of the Advisory board, which provides oversight for social programs in the city.

Lowry’s political views were influenced by his Army background, where he said his family was part of a community very different from civilian life.

In 1999 before he ran for office, his mother took him to her family home in Vietnam.
“You know that song ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’? Well, I left my heart in Saigon,” Lowry said.

While Vietnam is communist, Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, did not remind Lowry of what he imagined communism to look like. “The city was bustling with life. You don’t see serious and sad people. They are very industrious, very community-minded. Neighbors get involved with each other,” Lowry said.

Lowry has attended college here, as well as the University of Texas at San Antonio and St. Mary’s University. He said he wants the colleges of this district to be a place for the city to gather and for culture to spread to other areas. Lowry is planning informal meet and greets at several coffee shops in town, but he will be running a mostly Internet-based campaign. His Web site is http://www.lelowry.com.

While Lowry said he doesn’t earn enough money on his modest teacher’s assistant salary to spare for an ambitious campaign, he’s not deterred.

“If you can take care of yourself, you have to help other people.”

© Copyright 2007 The Ranger 

Civil society and the Alamo Colleges Trustee run-off elections

If you read the article from the Ranger I posted earlier, you may know that I was a candidate for the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees, in 2006. You also may have noticed when reading that post that there are two run-off elections for seats on that board tomorrow, Saturday, 21 June. The seats in question are for districts 4 and 8.

I want to follow up on that old article and to tell my story of why I ran for a seat way back then. It may shed light on why someone like me would run for an elected office that is thankless, pays nothing, and does require honest, hard effort at. For me it all began, while I was working with a student at San Antonio College. Then I worked as a job coach with the North East School District, working with an adult student with disabilities. The job entailed working with those students in preparing them for life outside of the public school system. The student I was with had an interest in anime and SAC happened to have an anime club at the time. While the student was at the club meeting, I was reading the Ranger outside the door of the classroom my student was in.

There was an article in the school’s paper talking about the upcoming board elections and that no one up for election at that point had an opponent. The chairman of the board at the time took that as a sign of proud accomplishment. I took his statement more as indifference among voters and arrogance from him. The next day, I was a candidate opposing one of the other board members.

As you can imagine my frustration turned inward to my positive experiences growing up on military bases and being a student in the Department of Defense school system and how that was a positive part of me not just as a student, but as an adult later on. From my family and the other families on base, I understood how neighbors can come together to help one another and build a strong community and culture. In those schools, I learned to ask questions, to question authority, and how that was essential to civil society and was the answer to a government that can easily lose touch with the community it serves.
My experiences visiting my family in Vietnam in 1999 reinforced that too. And my struggles with mental illness and my service on the Community Action Advisory Board, where I got to see poverty, homelessness, and hunger up close and hear the stories of those who were making it our of poverty, and those that were struggling to, those experiences reminded me that if we can take care of ourselves, then perhaps we have a civil obligation to help others so they can take care of themselves too.

Early frustrations and anger at what I saw as an arrogant, out of touch, trustee, who wasn’t even my opponent… turned to a community, people centered message tied by my own up and down life experiences and the stories I not only heard and saw, but also lived.

My platform was simple, our community colleges as centers of community and culture, tying the surrounding neighbors to those colleges with the students that attend them. The colleges needed to build closer bonds with the neighborhood, primarily through the public and private schools around them. The district needed to build closer bonds with the businesses were, students could go and hang out, study, socialize, etc. The idea was to build a more holistic relationship with not just the neighborhoods, but with students, faculty, administration, businesses that could allow for more open communication, open transparency in the decisions the board of trustees and district administration makes, and create a campus life that would positively impact student’s education and future in our city.

Really, my platform was even simpler than that. As trustees, we just needed to go out and talk with our students, faculty, and neighbors. In the end, I was perhaps seen as too idealistic by the few who voted. My opponent, the incumbent won, and later resigned to move on with life before his term was over. He sighted communication problems as a key reason for resigning.

No, I have no intention of running for a seat on the Alamo College Board of Trustees anytime soon, if ever. The trustee who represents me is well qualified and seems to do a good job on the board and even if she were to not run again, I’ve moved on too.
Still there is an election tomorrow and if you are registered to vote and live in either district I encourage you to learn about our colleges board of trustees, the important role it plays in our community and the candidates that are in the run-off. I’m not asking you to vote, but to play a role in our civil society and if you choose to vote, to vote smart tomorrow.

In the Alamo College Board of Trustee, District No. 4 run-off election the candidates are Albert R. Herrera and Lorena “Lorraine” Pulido. In District No. 8 the candidates in the run-off election are Clint Kingsbery and Gary Beitzel.

Change candidate, establishment candidate.

Back in 2006 I was a candidate for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees. One of the people who supported and made a donation to my campaign asked me if I was running as the change or the establishment candidate. It was a rhetorical question, that he wanted me to answer later.

My opponent, who was the incumbent, was that establishment candidate. The problem was, he and I agreed on virtually every issue. The difference was our priorities and approach to working on those issues. I believe this was one of the reasons I didn’t win the election. Since I was not a change candidate that offered a different vision of the Alamo Colleges, my own ability to stay passionate and committed to running often wavered. After the election my opponent would introduce me to other board members and encourage me to attend and speak up at meetings as a citizen to be heard.

This story about myself leads me to this; in the fall of 2003, a friend asked me to pick who’d be the next president. Early opinion and polls showed a toss up between Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Realizing that voters would be inclined to support a change candidate after 8 years of Bush (and 8 years of Clinton) and that the nation was in an economic recession, I said Sen. Barack Obama would become president if he decided to run.

I would also note that I believed that Governor Tim Pawlenty would offer the best choice for the GOP in 2012 as a change candidate against President Obama, by now the establishment candidate. Pawlenty dropped out early after a miserably showing at the Iowa GOP straw polls. A move he later regretted. I would argue that this played the largest part in Gov. Mitt Romney becoming the nominee and Pres. Obama being able to shed the establishment label and run again as a change candidate. Romney essentially serving as a continued surrogate, like McCain, as part of the establishment of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. I believe if he stayed in the race Pawlenty would have been a stronger opponent that Romney. Even in defeat Pawlenty, more than Sen. Rick Santorum, would have pushed Romney to establish his identity early as a change candidate.

It is too early to pick nominees for 2016, however, at this point it’s Secretary Clinton’s election to lose. She is in a unique position being part of the old guard establishment in Washington on one hand, but being a change candidate in contrast to both Obama and Speaker John Boehner the leader of the Republican Party. However, especially if Clinton runs, the story to pay attention to will be this one…

Sen. Bernie Sanders, as an independent running for President. Sanders has said he would put serious thought in running for president if there is no strong run by a liberal Democrat in the primaries. So far, aside from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I don’t see any Paul Wellstone-esque Democrats considering a serious run for president. Warren supporters have suggested she may run, but I doubt she will because of the success she’s had as a senator. She may find that she will, and has, done more good in Congress.

If this happens and Clinton runs and is essentially anointed as the Democrats nominee, I expect Sanders to run for president. As and independent and the only elected Socialist in Washington, he is not only a change candidate to the establishment of Obama/Bush/Clinton, but represents a unique contrast from the possibility of Tea Party candidate coming from the GOP. Any Tea Party candidate would try to run as a change candidate. A Sanders campaign as a Socialist and an independent would make both Clinton and whoever is the GOP nominee, establishment candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders would also be a positively contrast to the change offered by GOP should they nominate a Tea Party supported candidate. That could very well marginalize the GOP and turn it into a race between Sanders and Clinton.

I’m certain many of you will disagree with this early assessment but, looking back at 2008 and 2012 I think I have a better than average track record on this one. Also if you’re wondering who I think the Republican frontrunner is for the nomination in 2016, it’s not going to be Gov. Chris Christie or any other governor or former governor. As with 2012, the GOP primaries will be large, brutal, and trend further to the right than it normally would. Right now, look for a senator, most likely Rand Paul.

Signs are up

I have recently noticed that Elisa Chan‘s campaign has been putting up their campaign signs around the district. I would also note that the campaign website has been subtly updated to reflect her recently announced campaign. With this in mind I have begun to wonder what it would take for an underfunded and relatively unknown candidate to win an election over the better funded and known incumbent.

My first thought is making aggressive use of the internet through a website and social media to reach out to likely voters. But I have also thought that with a lack of money to match what someone with resources would do in a traditional “big money” campaign, how would a “no budget” candidate make use of netroots and grassroots kind of campaigning. These things do come to mind as I look at 2012 and the possibility of another run at the Alamo Colleges board of trustees.

Right now though are the municipal races for San Antonio and other smaller cities and districts in the area. Where I live, Elisa Chan is my city councilwoman and is running for reelection. She has drawn one opponent that I am aware of, Jose Valadez Jr., hopefully I will have more thoughts on his campaign.

No, I am not running…

With Cafe College as a backdrop this past Sunday, Mayor Julian Castro announced his bid to run for reelection as mayor of San Antonio. In his announcement, Mayor Castro laid out a pair of priorities for another prospective term of office. He called for the cause of educational readiness and the need to reorient San Antonio’s economic development model. Both of these priorities have been illustrated in the recent SA2020 initiative where citizens from throughout the city came together to lay out a common vision for San Antonio in the next ten years.

While it is certainly early to speculate if others will step up to run for mayor against the Castro. Lets remember it has only been a day since candidates for municipal elections can officially file for office. It would appear that the mayor will likely face only marginal opposition in the upcoming election. So far, there has been little if any discussion of major candidates stepping up to make their bids for mayor of San Antonio.

It is with Mayor Castor’s announcement that I look upon my own city council district here in town. City council member Elisa Chan has been touted for other political offices, from a possible opening in the state legislature, to a future run for mayor herself. In the meantime, she has held steady as my city council representative in district 10, which encompasses the north-central corridor of San Antonio. A conservative district, I have sometimes pondered how a liberal, such as myself, can hope to win a municipal race here.

I do have some political experience in this district, I serve as the area elected Representative of the Poor with the city of San Antonio. Despite holding an elected office, it is little known and does not get the type of attention that being a city council member would get. I do serve my community as best I can and do at times look onward at the city council someday. However someday is not now, I am not looking at a run for city council at this time.

I still find that it is difficult to articulate the importance of the issues at the center of my life and how those issues matter to this north central district. Issues such as poverty, community, and civic engagement seem to be beyond the scope of issues that would seem to matter to my district, even if I believe strongly that they are very meaningful to the economic and social well-being of our city as a whole and within the neighborhoods that I call home.

This is not to say that I am going to simply ignore the issues that matter right now, and not pay attention to the upcoming election in district 10. I do expect Elisa Chan to announce her own reelection campaign for city council, as well, I do not expect any serious contention for her seat at city hall. With that in mind, even if she runs unopposed, I will be closely following the issues that are at the center of my district and will blog on the upcoming campaigns and issues within my city council district.