Saturday, June 3, 2023 Jun 3, 2023
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A Dispatch From Election Night in Dallas

The inevitable runoff for mayor is clear.
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This is this week’s edition of D Brief, the weekly newsletter I send out. Not subscribed? Do so here. Tomorrow, look for full coverage of Saturday night from a host of different writers and editors. 

It’s down to Scott Griggs and Eric Johnson. The term-limited North Oak Cliff councilman and the state representative leaped to the top of the ballot after early voting returns last night and didn’t budge. One of those two men will be your next mayor.

Johnson held between 20 and 21 percent of the vote all night and Griggs followed behind with about 17. Early voting accounted for roughly 56 percent of the total vote and the rest of the candidates were packed together like sardines. At Griggs’ party at Trees in Deep Ellum, there was a solid hour of supporters standing in semicircles, hunched over their phones reloading the county’s website, watching whether Lynn McBee would close the gap between second and third once more of the North Dallas districts were counted. But nobody seemed genuinely worried about Scott. When the news cameras did their drive-by at about 9:30, Griggs must’ve said “we look forward to the runoff” at least five times despite fewer than half of the precincts reporting.

It was a bit anticlimactic, even if the result was unpredictable for most of the people whose job it is to predict these things. Just over 80,000 people voted, which is about a 10 percent turnout. That’s above the last two mayoral elections, but still rather dismal considering we’re replacing a two-term mayor who’s been in office since 2011. That had to be dispiriting to the other six (serious) candidates; they didn’t have room to maneuver after falling behind. Miguel Solis ran a campaign that many were watching closely and predicted to perform well. He finished in fifth place, with just over 10 percent of the vote. Solis, 32, ran a targeted ground campaign, trying to motivate young voters to get to the polls. He raised a lot of money too, more than half a million dollars, and was viewed as something of a spoiler. He spent plenty of time in southern Dallas—the running joke in our office is that he’s been paying rent at black churches—and met with supporters in a lot of North Dallas living rooms.

He worked hard, producing a campaign he called “people powered” without a hint of sarcasm. But his strategy didn’t work. He got just under half the total votes of Johnson, who won support from the city’s business community and flooded the zone with mailers and phone calls and text messages. Money and influence still walks in Dallas elections. McBee finished third and developer Mike Ablon was fourth, two candidates many were watching because the high turnout in District 13 was thought to benefit them. That’s where Jennifer Staubach Gates ran right over Laura Miller. The development of Preston Center, the motivating factor in Miller’s campaign, wasn’t enough of an issue for the entire district, it seems.

Griggs’ comrades on the council mostly had a good night. Omar Narvaez and Adam Medrano zoomed to early and decisive victories. Erin Moore, the candidate the bloc supported near White Rock Lake, is in the runoff in District 9. But Philip Kingston, the councilman for District 14 in downtown and East Dallas and Uptown, is headed for a runoff. He left his party around 9:30 after challenger David Blewett began climbing toward 50 percent. Blewett didn’t get it, but there was a lot of conversation inside Trees about Kingston’s struggles.

“I feel great,” Kingston told me earlier in the night. “Me and Griggs running together in a runoff, that sounds like the winning team to me. It always has been in the past.”

Well, this is the biggest test the two have had yet. Johnson will be able to tap his max donors for another easy $5,000 each. Griggs, meanwhile, was in the middle of the pack for campaign contributions. It didn’t matter in the general, but will it in the runoff? Will Johnson show up to campaign forums? Is Dallas ready for a “new kind of mayor,” as Griggs constantly put it, a man who lives in the details of contracts and memorandums and agenda items?

Don’t lose attention now. We have another five weeks ahead.

Read More.

Kudos to The Dallas Morning News, which kept its finger on the races all night. I saw Sharon Grigsby for about eight minutes and by the time I looked up, she’d filed this column from Griggs’ party. Johnson and Griggs woke up early and went on Inside Texas Politics this morning, sharing what makes them different. Here are the nuts and bolts about Kingston’s race, as well as Kevin Felder losing his seat in District 7 near Fair Park. Here’s Dave Tarrant on Gates’ decisive victory over Laura Miller. My Griggs party buddy Stephen Young at the Observer had this wrapup. Tim Rogers asked Johnson why he won’t come on our podcast. And here is Gromer Jeffers’ final take of the mayor’s race. Interesting quote from political consultant Carol Reed in that one: “It’s over,” she said, as Johnson has the support from the business elite and will find success in the north. Griggs has his work cut out for him.

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