Anti-Toll Stealth Campaign Knocks Out Vice Chair of CAMPO!

May 14, 2006
Contact: Sal Costello
Sal at TexasTollParty dot com

Anti-Toll Stealth Campaign Knocks Out
Vice Chair of Regional Planning Authority.

Austin, TX - While all eyes were on the Austin City ballot, the Austin Toll Party quietly ran a stealth campaign to unseat the Mayor of Westlake Hills who is also the Vice Chair of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). CAMPO is the regional authority that gave approval for the Phase II Toll Plan.

The campaign hammered Mayor Dwight Thompson for his toll road votes in 2004 and 2005.

Sal Costello, founder of Austin Toll Party said, "We are ecstatic that we've removed the Vice Chair of CAMPO, Dwight Thompson, who voted to toll roads we've already paid for. To date we've helped win two of the first two local toller vs. nontoller races we've focused on. I am confident that we will replace every toller that has ignored the public's will, and therefore stop the privatization and tolling of our public highways."

Mayor Dwight Thompson's opponent and now Mayor-Elect, Mark Urdahl, was approached three weeks before the election by Westlake Hills resident, Austin Toll Party member and Grammy Award winner Jimmy Vaughn. Vaughn found out that Mark Urdahl opposed the Austin Toll Plan and the toll party went right to work. Last year, Jimmy Vaughn played a benefit concert for the Austin Toll Party called "Tunes not Tolls."

Richard Reeves of the Austin Toll Party, said, "Before the toll party stepped into the race, our Westlake Hills tracking poll showed Mark Urdahl losing with 40% of the vote to Thompsons 60%. The same poll revealed a whooping 88% opposed the freeway toll plan. Most of the Dwight Thompson supporters also opposed tolls, so we quickly informed them of his toll advocacy to suppress his turnout. The election night results show we impressively moved the race by 15 points in less than 2 weeks." By the end of election night Mark Urdahl won 55% of the total vote to Dwight Thompson's 45%.

Costello gives a lot of credit to Austin Toll Party members and a wide spectrum of coalition partners from the Libertarian, Democrat, Republican and Independent parties who all oppose the Austin Toll Plan.

"I actually had an Austin City Council candidate, Wes Benedict, take time out of his campaign to work with us the day before his election! He helped us hand deliver hundreds of copies of Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's report that exposes the toll plan as "Double Taxation without Accountability". We slipped in one of our "Dump Dwight Thompson" direct mail pieces and delivered them door to door to folks that had not yet voted," said Sal Costello.

Sal Costello, who has won national design and marketing awards for clients such as Hallmark, Wrangler and PepsiCo, also creates the anti-toll strategies and campaigns that have proven to be so effective. To date his work for Austin Toll Party has been Pro Bono. Costello implemented what could be called his anti-toll graphic trademark with the Thompson/Urdahl race - a picture of the candidate with a crown and sash that says "Toll Road Emperor."

In 2004, CAMPO asked the public for feedback on the plan that includes tolls on Loop 360, MoPAC, Hwy 71, US 290 and US 183. This marked the first time in the U.S. that public highways would shift to tollways. The majority of the CAMPO board voted for the toll plan after 93% of the public feedback opposed the idea. Sal Costello says that is when he decided to form the group that opposes the shifting of public highways to tollways. Austin Toll Party is not opposed to all toll roads, only the ones that privatize and toll public highways.

Even though the first Phase II Toll Road vote took place in 2004, the first toller vs. non-toller race for Austin took place in this year's primary. Earlier this year, the toll party focused on long-time incumbent, Travis County Commissioner, Karen Sonleitner for her "Yes" vote and helped Sarah Eckhardt win with 57% in the recent primary election. Sarah Eckhardt has no primary party opposition in November.


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