Mayoral candidate Sfarke Taylor is in an uncertain position. A lot of business and political leaders know that he would make a very good mayor. The question, as always with newcomers to elective politics, is: How will he fare at the polls?
Taylor, a former cotton magnate turned developer, emerged in mid-August as the most likely business candidate for mayor. Given his popularity and respect in the city’s circles of power, he seemed like a natural selection.
Following Mayor Jack Evans’ surprise August 5 announcement that he would not seek a second term because he was needed full time as president of Cullum Companies, many of the city’s powerbrokers sought a candidate who, like Evans, could unite the city.
Councilman Joe Haggar was a popular choice until he announced that his own business problems kept him out of politics. Similar statements were made, publicly and privately, by restaurateur Norman Brinker, Frito-Lay Inc. President Wayne Calloway and Cadillac dealer Rodger Meier. Morris Hite, the man who led the city’s bond package to approval, was not interested. Councilman Sid Stahl, who had been interested in the past, decided soon after Evans’ announcement that if he runs, it will be for reelection to his at-large post. Stahl’s law partner, Joe Geary, is a likely supporter of Starke Taylor. So is former Mayor Bob Folsom, and it’s those ties that raise questions about Taylor’s electability.
Clearly, Taylor has the makings of a good mayor – he is personable, bright, honest and hard-working, and he has put in five years service on the Dallas Park and Recreation Board. Plus, unlike many other prospective candidates, his finances are solid enough so that he could serve as mayor and still pay the rent.
To win, Taylor must run well in North Dallas, and developers have their enemies there. Some homeowners might find themselves torn between their loyalty to pro-business policies and their attachment to their own neighborhood groups.
This can be overcome to a significant extent by Taylor’s strong ties to the Republican Party, which dominates politics in North Dallas. Already the race to succeed Councilman Joe Haggar has taken on partisan overtones, with Betty Svoboda playing heavily on her work with the GOP, successfully boxing opponent Annette Strauss out of some key endorsements.
Council-watchers are predicting that come filing time in February, Strauss might choose to run at large where her chances of winning would be far brighter.
Holding North Dallas together will require some smooth politicking, but it is almost a guarantee of victory. Between them, Districts 3 and 4 (councilmen Haggar and Rolan Tucker) have 36 percent of the city’s registered voters. The two North Dallas districts contributed 72 percent of the 59,958 votes cast in the August bond election.
To win, Taylor would have to endure grueling campaigning, “and I’m not sure that I like it,” he says. He agrees that his association with Folsom could cost him some votes. “That’s something I’m thinking about, but I hope that people understand… that he’s a friend of mine and I think a lot of him but 1 make my own decisions,” Taylor says.
Even before Taylor announced his intentions, one of his most likely opponents was waving the development flag. Councilman Wes Wise said he thought the city’s consensus government was based on a balance between developer interests and “the interests of homeowners and the people in general.” Maintaining that balance, Wise said, would become a problem if a developer were mayor.
Other potential candidates seemed likely to play upon that theme. Councilman Lee Simpson was one prospect with a solid reputation as a spokesman for neighborhood interests, but he said that he is trying to build a law practice and might lack the time to be mayor and earn a living.
Garry Weber, currently a county commissioner, was another possibility, though he insisted that Evans’ retirement did not change his own plans to get out of government service.
And Rose Renfroe, a council member from 1975 to 1977 representing Oak Cliff, said she had been speaking to “a lot of women from throughout the city who feel like it’s time for a woman mayor.”
If the mayor’s race boils down to Taylor vs. Wise, Candye Bartos of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce believes that Taylor would win handily in her section of the city. In fact, she says, “previous political experience has become a liability. The solid, participating citizen has an advantage.”