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The Mayor Chooses a Curious Venue for State of the City Address

In September, Mayor Eric Johnson became a Republican, but vowed to approach his nonpartisan seat the same way. On Thursday, he'll broadcast his annual address on one of the region's more conservative talk radio stations.
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News radio station WBAP will air Mayor Eric Johnson’s State of the City address Thursday night, his office announced Tuesday.

It’s been a year since Johnson gave the annual address but only two months since he announced he would switch parties to become one of about two dozen Republican large-city mayors. 

The choice of venue marks another instance of Johnson opting to flex his newly sculpted Republican muscles. WBAP is a talk radio and news station, one of the state’s oldest. It airs local and nationally syndicated shows, the bulk of which are hosted by conservative hosts like Dan Bongino, Mark Levin, and Chris Krok. 

Johnson gave last year’s State of the City address at the Briscoe-Carpenter Livestock Building in Fair Park and streamed it over the city’s YouTube channel. In 2021, he gave the speech at City Hall, and at the height of the pandemic in 2020, he broadcasted the speech virtually from Fair Park’s Hall of State. The city’s charter requires the mayor to provide a yearly public report that details what the city has accomplished, what’s on the horizon, and its financial condition. 

The city can broadcast from its website, much like it livestreams city meetings. It also owns the classical music station WRR, which KERA now runs. It is unclear if any other means of broadcasting the address were explored before landing on WBAP.

“Mayor Johnson wanted to try something new to reach people a different way,” Johnson’s chief of staff, Alheli Garza, emailed D Magazine Tuesday night. Johnson’s office said his speech will include public safety, parks, and the upcoming bond election.

When Johnson announced his party switch in September, he insisted that how he approached his job wouldn’t change because his party affiliation had changed. 

“By the time I was elected mayor—a nonpartisan office—in 2019, I was relieved to be free from hyperpartisanship and ready to focus on solving problems,” he said. “But I don’t believe I can stay on the sidelines any longer.”

And in the days that followed, he continued to claim that his party switch didn’t change the nonpartisan nature of his seat, telling talk-radio host Mark Davis that he never campaigned for mayor as a Democrat despite serving nine years as a Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives. 

But in the same interview, he attributed his approach to his position as a Republican.

“I’m a Republican, and we’re going to run Dallas with the same conservative Republican principles, frankly, that I’ve been running the city with for the past four years,” he told Davis.

Since that September announcement, Johnson’s social media posts frequently praise fellow Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz and conservative pundits, along with highlighting campaign stops he’s made for other GOP candidates running for mayor nationwide. He met then-GOP presidential candidate Tim Scott in Dallas in early October for lunch and Scott told reporters that he and Johnson have been friends “for a few years.” 

He also announced the creation of the Republican Mayors Association in October—something the Dallas Morning News editorial board blasted as “hurting his ability to be an effective leader.” He campaigned in Indianapolis for mayoral candidate Jefferson Shreve, who lost by 20 points.

In previous years, where the mayor gave his State of the City address, it has rarely been notable. But in a year where a historically Democratic city’s highest-ranking elected official switches parties, the venue he chooses also makes a statement.

Johnson’s address will air at 7 p.m. Thursday on WBAP News/Talk 820 AM and 99.5 FM. According to his office, it will also be streamed on the station’s website.

Author

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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