Near midnight, in an empty Cafe Brazil just east of SMU, Angela Hunt was about to alter the course of Dallas’ history. She laid out a proposal to two men sitting across from her, Lake Highlands City Council candidate Adam McGough and his campaign manager. Make a public statement, she asked them, one promising that, if elected, McGough would vote to withdraw city support for the construction of a six-lane toll road inside the Trinity River levees (“kill Alternative 3C,” in the parlance of the day). This was a big ask. McGough, a former chief of staff for Mayor Mike Rawlings, had never rejected the Rawlings-supported Trinity toll road plan. But now, in June of 2015, he was in a runoff with a tough candidate, Paul Reyes, a former John Carona staffer who had won a plurality of votes in the general election against McGough, 40.9 to 36.4 percent. The third-place candidate, James White, with little to his campaign other than a relentless anti-toll road message, had garnered more than 22 percent.
During her four terms on the Dallas City Council, from 2005 to 2013, Hunt often met with people skeptical of her stance against the proposed toll road. She would wheel around documents in a large luggagelike briefcase, hoping that facts would convince skeptics that the plan was a dumb, dangerous boondoggle. But she often found herself on a political island, ignored by her colleagues and the business community. As modern policymaking teaches us daily, facts rarely change a politician’s mind. As the workplace too often shows us, men in suits don’t like women telling them they’re wrong.
At this midnight meeting, however, Hunt didn’t bring her rolling briefcase. She didn’t ask McGough to take a stand because of facts, research, or the whispers of his heart. She was brokering a backroom deal to win the election for him.Read More