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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mayoral race sports 7 contenders ...

The next Amarillo mayor will have to knock out a half-dozen other candidates to get the job.

Seven candidates have entered the mayor's race, making a runoff election a possibility if no hopeful can pull in at least 51 percent of the votes in the May 14 municipal election.

Steve Dawson, 42, filed paperwork on Wednesday to compete for the post, and Roy McDowell, 69, has said he will announce his campaign for the position at 2 p.m. Friday on the front steps of Amarillo City Hall, 509 S.E. Seventh Ave.

Dawson works as a business developer with Express Employment Professionals.

McDowell owns Amarillo Truck Parts and McDowell Haynes Inc., a truck sales business, said his wife, Terry McDowell.

The entries of Dawson and McDowell came on the heels of filings by Pantex employee Gary Wayne Funderburk, 60, and city emergency communications dispatcher Ryan Vigil, 21.

Already in the race were full-time student Sandra Dunn, 53; Pantex security officer and fundamentalist pastor David H. Grisham Jr., 50; and car salesman and former Amarillo City Commissioner Paul Harpole, 60.

Candidates can file through March 14 to run for the next two-year term as mayor or as one of the city's four Amarillo city commissioners.

Three candidates who filed this week described the reasons behind their campaigns.

Dawson, a Desert Storm veteran, wants to create jobs and provide transportation and vocational rehabilitation assistance.

"I want to increase awareness and support for our veterans," he said.

Funderburk, who said he works on classified projects at Pantex, said he has "no political agenda."

"I think we have a good mayor already," he said, referring to Mayor Debra McCartt, who is not seeking re-election.

"I've lived in Amarillo all my life and thought it (serving) would be a way of making a contribution. You know, your time's your most valuable asset."

The 911 dispatcher, Vigil said he hopes to prompt voters to act. "I'm just a young patriot who'd like to see a youthful perspective in local politics," he said. "I'd like to see more people actually getting out and voting. If I get people to think and consider voting for me or voting against me, I think I've done well."

McDowell could not immediately be reached for comment on his campaign.

The newest candidates to the race also weighed in on issues the Amarillo City Commission has placed on the May ballot due to a petition drive mounted by the Amarillo Citizens for Property Rights political action committee.

Voters will choose:

• Whether to change the city's election system so that each commissioner must reside in and be elected by the voters of a specific geographic district of the city

• Whether to repeal new urban design zoning standards for downtown properties

• Whether to repeal regulations that limit the size and placement of on-premises business signs.

Dawson, Funderburk and Vigil all said they would support a single-member district election system.

"I can see both sides of it," Vigil said. "I believe more diversity on the commission would bring about more discussion and, ultimately, more progress. I think it would be a bumpy road to start down, but I think it's safe to say I'd support it."

If elected, the city charter would require Vigil to resign his full-time job.

The property rights group has pushed to overturn the design standards, claiming the standards infringe on individual rights. The standards only apply when a property owner initiates exterior changes to a property in the downtown area, city officials have said.

Funderburk and Vigil said the property rights concern leads them to support the repeal of the standards.

Dawson believes the standards could be modified and incentives could be provided to help property owners make changes.

"I know that there are costs, but I think there are some things we can do to reward people for taking that chance," he said.

Funderburk and Vigil also support the repeal of the sign ordinance.

"We need our small businesses, and I think it's hurting our small businesses," Funderburk said.

Dawson said he would favor tweaking the ordinance but leaving it in place because sign clutter "does tend to be a distraction, if you have more and more opportunities to take your eyes off the road."

Dunn and Grisham previously stated support for single-member district voting and for the repeal of the sign and urban design standards ordinances. Harpole is against single-member districts, has ideas for revamping the sign ordinance and believes the urban design standards are important to downtown revitalization.

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