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Veggie Man Pummels Pounders in Council Race

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It seems that vegetables can stay fresh for years in the minds of voters.

People are still talking about a former feud between City Council candidate R. Mark Pounders and the now 70-year-old owner of a West End vegetable stand. The question is, could the remnants of that row affect Pounders' standing in the five-way race for Council's 1st District seat?

"It's hurt him a hell of a lot," says Curtis Shepperson, the still-seething owner of the veggie stand on a sidewalk near the intersection of Libbie and Kensington avenues. "I'm glad of it. I hope he doesn't win. In my personal opinion, he certainly isn't a good candidate for anything."

Pounders wasn't a candidate in 2002, but rather president of the Westview Civic Association when he took part in an effort to relocate Shepperson's truck on behalf of some unhappy neighbors. Harsh words were exchanged and police reports were filed before Shepperson ultimately agreed to move his truck just around the corner, where he says business is better than ever.

What hasn't improved are Pounders' chances of winning the Council seat, if one believes the results of a September survey by Conquest Communications. The poll of 300 people — with a high 5.77 percent margin of error — put Pounders last in the race, with a paltry 3.3 percent of the vote. Candidate Paul Goldman is leading the race, according to the poll, with 17.7 percent of the vote.

Pounders, director of operations for Winn Transportation, discredits the survey as a push poll designed to lead voters to one candidate or another. He sees the poll as part of an effort to make the Council race a popularity contest.

"I'm the only one who's got the backing of the civic associations and the neighborhoods," Pounders says. "I'm the only candidate who's been in that arena working for six years. I probably don't feel as comfortable winning a popularity contest. Unfortunately, that may be what this is turning into."

Shepperson says Pounders remains decidedly unpopular among the customers who frequent his vegetable stand and "laugh" at Pounders' nearby campaign sign.

"People say, 'I'm glad that sign is there, because that tells us who not to vote for,'" Shepperson says.

Likewise, the issue hasn't died for Pounders, who felt compelled to detail the saga on the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of his campaign Web site. But Pounders views the relocation of the vegetable stand as one of his proudest moments.

"It was a divisive thing that no one wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole," he says. "I got involved and was able to fix it for everybody — for the neighbors and for Curtis. I'm not sure how people can look at that negatively, but if they do, I really don't have an answer for them." S



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