It sure seems like Alan Autry is backing Lee Brand to be Fresno’s next mayor, a post Autry held from 2001 through 2008.
After all, last week Autry spoke at a Brand-organized news conference in which Brand pitched a five-point plan to address local crime that he would enact if he is elected mayor. Autry would be a key part of the plan as point man to push a ballot initiative that, if successful, would require the state to return 5 percent of income tax revenue to local governments for public safety.
But at the podium, Autry stressed that he is staying neutral in the race.
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In an interview after he spoke, Autry said it’s best for Fresno if he stays out of at least two mayoral races following his departure from office.
It was an interesting comment, given that Autry hasn’t stayed out of either of the city’s mayoral races since he was termed out at the end of 2008.
That year, he endorsed current Mayor Ashley Swearengin as his replacement.
Earlier this year, he endorsed close friend H. Spees in the June primary. Spees finished third behind Brand, who came in second, and Henry R. Perea, who finished first. As the top two finishers, Brand and Perea square off next week. Spees was eliminated.
Asked to explain, Autry said there were extenuating circumstances in both races.
Autry said he committed to endorse a Spees mayoral run even before he ran for the office in 2000. That commitment remained in place this year when Spees finally ran.
In 2004, Autry also touted Spees as his replacement when he briefly said he wouldn’t seek a second term. Autry later changed his mind and ran for re-election, and Spees ended up not running that year.
“I made a personal commitment to H. a long time ago,” Autry said.
The Swearengin exception is a little more complicated.
In 2008, she was running against Henry T. Perea, the former Assembly member and son of current mayoral candidate Henry R. Perea.
Autry indeed vowed to stay neutral in that race, and stuck to the pledge for nearly a year.
In the closing days of the election, however, Henry T. Perea and the Fresno Police Officers Association, which had endorsed him, condemned Swearengin for a 2003 report she helped write when she headed the Regional Jobs Initiative that suggested capping general fund spending on police and fire services.
An angry Autry said it was “absolutely false” that the RJI report called for limiting public safety spending. Six days before the election, he endorsed Swearengin.
So far in the current mayor’s race, there has been no October surprise from Autry.