A relative newcomer to Montgomery County – beholden no politician, unattached from the grossly incestuous political powers-that-be and unencumbered by the caporegimes controlling the powerful special interest groups.
Meet Stephen Austin, Montgomery County Board of Education candidate, at-large.
Mr. Austin has thoroughly, categorically, indisputably, unequivocally and systematically disrupted the Montgomery County Political Machine in every way possible.
The Montgomery County Political Machine has finally cracked – all at the behest of an unostentatious former college radio D.J. and former substitute teacher from Texas.
Stephen Austin had no intention of running for office last year when he first learned about the Montgomery County Board of Education’s decision to conduct a countywide boundary analysis and review.
It was his childhood, though, that inspired him to step up and take a stand – his kids in mind.
Austin’s dad became a single father around the time Austin was 11 years old. His dad lost his job as a result of the oil collapse in the 80’s. Their house was foreclosed on. Austin moved three times in sixth grade – three different schools. He’s experienced poverty first-hand – a traumatic experience, undoubtedly, for a child.
Those experiences, Austin said, shaped him into who he is today, leading him to an unlikely Board of Education race – a race, sadly, marked by smears, attacks and disdainful lies, orchestrated by a failing political cabal, desperate to maintain control over its dutiful followers.
Montgomery County Public Schools’ reputation has suffered a series of consecutive blows over the last few years. Area parents will tell you that they have lost trust in Maryland’s largest public school system.
And for good reason.
MCPS’ reputation for withholding unmistakably important information about the safety and wellbeing of its students enrages parents and community members alike. Parents say they don’t trust the school system to tell them the truth.
The school system, some parents say, seemingly shifts its narrative to the tune of the administration’s always-changing, behind-the-scenes dictums.
There are far too many instances where Superintendant Jack Smith has dropped the proverbial ball. Transparency is lacking, parents exclaim, and the nine-person school board – not all of them, of course – have done little or nothing to assuage parents’ concerns.
The boundary discussion and the subsequent countywide analysis leaves parents with even more questions.
Enter Stephen Austin.
The 46-year-old husband and father of two – also a financial guru and an unassuming, regular guy with a penchant for geeking out over data analysis and decent art – did the unthinkable.
He organized. He built a movement. And he put his name on the ballot.
It’s the dream of every so-called organizer: Somebody stepping up, taking a stand, running for office.
Stephen Austin has done what no self-righteous, sanctimonious, Twitter-tweeting woke activist, with an unsolicited opinion on, like, everything, could ever do.
He and many others slowly built a movement, not realizing what it would soon manifest into.
Mr. Austin’s group is a diverse melting pot of parents, teachers, students and community leaders and activists.
His movement is inclusive, despite the lies told by the always dishonest Machine operators. It includes immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, Independents; African-Americans, Latinos, single moms, single-dads, LGBTQ community members, middle-class families, parents in poverty, and so, so many more.
Austin, though, doesn’t see his organization as a collection of political identities. He sees it as a group of parents and community activists who are tired of the status quo, ready to fight for their kids, for all Montgomery County students.
My Austin’s coalition, notwithstanding his success or failure in the June 2 primary election, will not go away, even as the Machine’s incessant bullying and harassment continue.
The Montgomery County Political Machine hates Stephen Austin.
Because they cannot control him. They cannot co-opt him. They cannot intimidate him (they’ve tried, in the most obscene ways).
And they certainly cannot stop him.
Stephen Austin owes nothing to The Montgomery County Political Machine.
He didn’t seek their approval or acceptance. He didn’t beg them for an endorsement. Nor does he feel entitled to a school board seat, regardless of how much or how little he’s served on a PTA.
He didn’t work for a county councilman. He isn’t endorsed by the Montgomery County executive. He didn’t beg County Council members for their support in exchange for their tutelage.
And he sure as hell didn’t seek out and ask Eric Luedtke or Kirill Reznik, God forbid, to mentor him.
He didn’t make nice with the Takoma Park consortium and he didn’t seek out retired Board of Education members or former County Council members, in search of their exclusive, inestimable, incomparable political wisdom.
He didn’t kiss the Machine’s proverbial rings. He doesn’t slink away when they write their laughable op-eds and daily social media hit pieces.
Sometimes, Austin will hit back.
Finally, a candidate with some gumption.
Mr. Austin didn’t cower when the entrenched incumbent politicians sent their emails, begging Montgomery County residents to follow their leads – because, of course, they know best; you should listen to them because they have done oh, so well, in elected office.
He just keeps firing back. And they don’t know how to handle it.
The Machine’s last-ditch call-to-action – published Monday on a popular online media outlet, on Memorial Day no less – would be entirely laughable if it were not so utterly pathetic.
A plea with voters, warning them about Austin’s irrational fear-mongering. It turns out that the elected’s letter was a caricature of their own irrational fear-mongering and excessive hyperbole.
The Machine knows it cannot control Stephen Austin and his supporters.
The Machine will lie about him. They will intentionally mischaracterize his positions. They will attack his family. They will seek to destroy his character. And they will even go so far as to attack his supporters and their families.
It’s not uncommon; this behavior has been happening for years. It’s classic Montgomery County.
Stephen Austin could pull out a surprise victory on June 2 – or, as some expect, he may suffer an inevitable defeat with the help of the Montgomery County Political Machine.
But one thing is for certain: Stephen Austin, and likely many others following him, have disrupted Montgomery County’s incestuous political machine.
And he’s not going anywhere.