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Leslie Cochran in front of his downtown Austin mobile home Click Here Here for Mayor /n 1983, a guitar-strumming, street-corner flower salesman ran for mayor and lost then in 1987 won a seat on the city council after becoming something of a bumper-sticker cult hero. That was Old Austin. Leslie Cochran is New Austin. Leslie arrived here four years ago, about the time the high-tech/.com economy had redefined the character of the city. Since then, the 49-year old cross-dresser and her shopping cart have become a moving downtown performance art installation, ranging and Congress west on Sixth past the Like much of New Austin’s new money, Leslie came from Seattle but not from the Bill Gates campus. Leslie was a K.K.R. casualty, laid off at Safeway after Kohlberg Kravis Roberts bought the chain, broke the union, and began closing down stores. “The last real job I had was at Safeway in Seattle,” where he had worked as a warehouseman \(he was dressing After four years on the streets of Austin, with the economy booming, Leslie is again looking for work. “People tell me to get a job. That’s what I’m doing applying for a job.” Leslie is running for mayor, challenging incum bent Kirk Watson, whose law office is across Congress from Leslie’s downtown corner. “February 22, I’m going to come up with $500 someway to get my name on the ballot,” Leslie said, sipping caf macchiato on the corner in front of Starbucks. \(She’s barred from Starbucks not by Starbucks but by the owner of the office buildcampaign is an outgrowth of her protest against police harassment of the homeless. Over the course of nine arrests, Leslie turned a shopping cart into a portable billboard, directed at the A.P.D.’s treatment of the homeless. Although she’s not a sound-bite candidate \(the exception: “I don’t take political contributions, only bums and politicians ask for distilled from the disquisitions reporters’ questions elicit. 1.Better treatment of the homeless by the police. 2.Police accountability. 3.Light rail \(but not across the In a followup interview, Leslie took exception to Watson’s lighthearted reference to Leslie’s skimpy summer outfits \(heels and a revealwho has the best legs. It’s about who is right on the issues. And I will beat him.” Leslie was also critical of John Kelso’s coverage in the Austin American -Statesman: “Kelso’s supposed to be a humor columnist and I gave him some really funny lines. He wrote whatever he wanted and didn’t even use the funniest parts.” Watson, who raised more than $700,000 for his last election, is thus far invisible. \(Even with the city’s new $100 individ ual contribution limit, Leslie might have a cam p ai g n fi nance problem at a certain point: Do the unsolicited donations Leslie receives from passersby have to be declared as political contributhe news, but lacks the visibility of Austin’s free-media queen. Her fame was expanded recently when Channel 42 aired a November news feature on a local high-dollar ad campaign.. Leslie’s digitized image is used by to attract employees to its website, and Yclip’s full-page ads in the daily Austin American-Statesman and weekly Austin Chronicle have made Leslie a household face beyond the 01 downtown zip. Yclip owner Luis Gonzalez said he wanted to attract the attention of potential employees, and pledged that for each person hired through one of the Leslie ads, he would donate $250 to charities benefiting the homeless. \(“I’m thinking of taking that image back and keeping it as my own,” Eighteen years ago, the local economy was about to take off and the deals were done on a dozen major downtown building projects. Max Nofziger, an eager South Austin street entrepreneur appealing to everyone who lamented the closing of the Armadillo World Headquarters, or the developers’ assault on Barton Springs, was the face of the city. At the beginning of the new millennium, with the economy so hot that downtown “lofts” are selling for a quarter of a million dollars and something called an “internet advertising infrastructure” company can earn enough money to give some of it away, it’s weirdly appropriate that the city is represented by the web icon of a homeless crossdresser from Seattle wearing a pink boa, a cheesy tiara, and sipping a caf machiatto in front of Starbucks. + 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 18, 2000