As Zac mentioned in Leading Off, there was an election Saturday, but chances are you are one of the 92.19 percent of Dallas County residents who didn’t vote. No matter. Turnout was up by about 1.05 percent, and regarding the most contested races, you may still have a chance to vote in a runoff.
In fact, most of the major storylines of this year’s municipal elections are yet to be decided. But let’s round up what we do know after Saturday’s vote:
Mari Woodlief knows how to waste her clients’ money: Let’s face it, was there really any doubt that Philip Kingston was going to lose his seat in East Dallas? With 4,340 votes, Kingston won the most votes of any candidate in the Dallas City Council election. That said, his opponent Matt Wood took home an impressive 3,307 votes, which would have won Wood a spot on the horseshoe in nearly every other race. But that total looks less impressive in light of the fact that the PAC that Wood said he was not in contact with out-spent Kingston and helped make the District 14 contest the highest-profile race in the city.
There is a simple takeaway from the much-touted Wood-Kingston showdown: the For Our Community PAC demonstrated that it doesn’t know how to win municipal elections, which may reflect the fact that the organizers and backers of the PAC are out of touch with the character of the electorate they are trying to sway. The negative campaign against Kingston seemed to rally support for the incumbent and damaged Wood’s nice guy image. Plus, the three other candidates strongly backed by Mari Woodlief’s PAC — Monica Alonzo in District 6, Tiffinni Young in District 7, and Erik Wilson in District 8 — are all headed to runoffs. The For Our Community PAC appeared designed to shore up the mayor’s voting bloc on the council. Now that looks in jeopardy.
Where does the “mayor’s bloc” stand? When we talk about the “mayor’s bloc,” what we are really talking about are the members of the Council that stand behind on the mayor’s big-ticket issues, like the Trinity toll road and the Fair Park deal. You get things done in Dallas politics by being able to count to eight — the number of votes needed to hold a majority on the 15-member elected body.
With three key council races heading to runoffs, and Dwaine Caraway ousting Carolyn Arnold in District 4, right now the mayor can only really confidently count to four (himself, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Lee Kleinman, Rickey Callahan) — or six, if you count Adam McGough, who frequently votes with the mayor but has sided with the Griggs, Kingston, Medrano, and Clayton coalition on some issues. That means everything is still up for grabs, and the character and alliances of the next City Council may look quite different than the previous years, especially if just one of the mayor’s typical allies — Young, Alonzo, or Wilson — lose their runoff.
West Dallas up for grabs after potential voter fraud: Regarding those runoffs, the most fascinating race to watch will be the battle for the soul of West Dallas. Amidst ongoing gentrification, the fight over the eviction of more than 500 indigent residents, and allocations of mail-in ballot voter fraud, the race is such a toss-up that we won’t even know who is in the runoff until the mail-in ballot issue is settled. Monica Alonzo, the incumbent and staunch mayoral ally, received the most votes (760) on Saturday. Challengers Omar Narvaez and Alex Dickey came in second and third with 536 and 488 votes respectively. But with no more than 272 votes separating the first- and the third-place finisher, and 426 mail-in votes awaiting a review by a judge, we could potentially see a situation in which the runoff for the West Dallas seat doesn’t even include the incumbent.
It would make for fascinating political popcorn popping if not for the fact that in a part of town that desperately needs strong representation, only 1,952 people voted and even those votes are now subject to allegations of voter fraud. That’s not good for democracy or Dallas.
And speaking of turnout, if you ever want to run for City Council, move to Pleasant Grove: Rickey Callahan was reelected with just 944 votes, or 28 percent of Matt Wood’s total. In fact, turnout throughout southern Dallas was, sadly, very low.
What about Lee Kleinman? Just as I don’t believe there was much doubt that Kingston was going to lose to Wood, I’m not sure if Lee Kleinman’s North Dallas seat was really in serious jeopardy. The Dallas police associations strongly backed his opponent, blogger and former D Magazine real estate editor Candy Evans. But Kleinman prevailed with a commanding 63 percent of the vote. If there is a takeaway, it is that the race exposed the depth of distrust and opposition between the mayor, his closest allies, and the Dallas police community. As both the pension and the back pay crises move forward, this standoff will likely play a major role in the next term.