Councilmen Line Up at Mayoral Starting Gate

Some of the most interesting politicking going on these days has nothing to do with this November’s state and federal elections. It concerns next spring’s may-oral race. Word is Mayor Robert Folsom will decide whether to seek re-election while on vacation this month. If the mayor decides to step down – and most observers think he will – three city council members are waiting in the wings to replace him.

Mayor Pro Tern Bill Blackburn’s may-oral designs have been a badly kept secret for at least the past year; Councilman Willie Cothrum has been similarly indiscreet about his interest in the post. The most recent and most interesting “unannounced” candidate is Republican Councilman John Leedom. Leedom will only allow for the record, “I hope Bob runs again. But if he decides not to, I’ll pray real hard on it and hope God’s will be done.” But a lot of insiders say the outspoken free-enterprise conservative has already made up his mind to run, with or without Divine Guidance.

The prospect of a Blackburn-Cothrum-Leedom mayoral race is, to say the least, provocative. Blackburn’s razor-cut good looks and close ties to Folsom will make him formidable; Cothrum has the money to buy the post if he wants it badly enough. Leedom’s strength is debatable: Many observers feel he could never win a citywide election. His trenchant conservatism and divisive rhetoric have offended as many voters as they have impressed.

On the other hand, Leedom has something neither Blackburn nor Cothrum can claim – a constituency. As the architect of the powerful Jim Collins machine and a former Republican county chairman, Leedom can count on a lot of partisan votes from North Dallas. That can’t be dismissed, considering that North Dallas almost single-handedly defeated the Trinity River canalization project in 1972 and elected Bob Folsom two years ago. Moreover, Leedom may be in a position to play both ends against the middle with down-town businessmen. Blackburn will unavoidably carry the “establishment candidate” tag because of his relationship with Folsom; Leedom, though a conservative, could pick up a lot of independent votes by portraying himself as the rugged, anti-establishment individualist. At the same time, Leedom will undoubtedly attract a good amount of “closet money” from businessmen who don’t trust Blackburn’s liberal Democratic background. In that event, John Leedom could well be the first Dallas mayor elected by anti-establishment votes after campaigning with establishment money.


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