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An Election Postmortem: How Turnout and Apathy Shaped Tuesday’s Outcome

Bethany Erickson
By |
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Gloria Lane and Ollie Brown walk back to their car after voting Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Jeffrey McWhorter

A big red wave was more like a trickle across the country on Tuesday, but in Texas, the margins of victory for statewide Republican candidates were much larger than anticipated.

Winning a statewide race was always going to be difficult for the Democrats—the party hasn’t won one since 1994. However, aside from Dallas County and other urban counties, the GOP clawed back some of the ground it lost to suburban areas like Collin, Denton, and Tarrant counties. Those wins weren’t the same margins the party enjoyed prior to the Trump presidency, however. For instance, in Collin County, Republicans could reliably count on at least a 30-point margin of victory until 2016. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott won by 10 points. He won by just 4 points in Tarrant County.

In a memo obtained by the Texas Tribune, Jamarr Brown, the executive director of the Texas Democrats, outlined the gains the party made and what impeded the party’s progress in this election. He also addressed the frustrating losses on the statewide level, saying that “a loss is still a loss…and it’s frustrating not to be able to see the fruits of our labors more immediately.

“But massive political change in a state as big as Texas can only be made incrementally,” he continued, acknowledging that “it’s exasperating to hear.”

Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Texas GOP, broke his impressions of the election down in a Twitter thread Wednesday. One takeaway? “But the lesson is, the GOP can’t rest on Dem incompetence & 70% of voters believing America is on the wrong track to win elections. It needs a positive message and governing agenda. It needs to stand for something,” he said.

For local and statewide perspectives, we talked to Democratic strategist Jay Pritchard and campaign finance expert Chris Tackett—who you can also catch in the CNN documentary “Deep in the Pockets of Texas“—about the election.

Local News

Dallas County Remained Predictably Blue, but the Math Didn’t Work for Statewide Races

Bethany Erickson
By |
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John Bryant, left, and Sarah Lamb, East Dallasites who ran against each other for House District 114, talk to Ally Raskin outside Samuell-Grand Recreation Center. Bryant would win the race. Jeffrey McWhorter

Dallas County’s big blue wave may have swept nearly every countywide race, but in statewide races, it didn’t help the math much. 

The last report from the Dallas County Elections Department, which was produced at 5 a.m., shows that 623,306 voters cast ballots. That is not quite 44 percent of the county’s 1,422,849 registered voters. (Note: the total number of registered voters may differ on the county’s election website, but county elections chief Michael Scarpello says that’s due to a clerical error on the part of the third-party vendor that maintains the DallasCountyVotes.org website.)

According to historical election results, 66 percent of the county’s 1,400,730 registered voters cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election. In the last midterm election, in 2018, about 55 percent of the county’s 1,338,788 registered voters went to the polls.

We’ll have more information after the votes are canvassed, which happens in 10-14 days, but here’s what we’re seeing at first look:

Politics

Should Lauren Davis Even Be on the Ballot?

Tim Rogers
By |
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Davis masked up on March 18, 2021, in Puerto Rico, where her three-story house overlooked a canal in Humacao.

I’m going to back into this story a bit. I’ll get to why I think GOP candidate Lauren Davis was living in Puerto Rico when she should have been living in Texas if she wanted to run for the top spot on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. But you need to know two things first.

One, the head of the Commissioners Court is called a judge. Currently that is Democrat Clay Jenkins. He’s not a judge who wears a black robe and sends people to jail. He’s the county’s chief executive. Think of him as the mayor of the county. Pretty easy civics lesson, right?

Two, this story didn’t originate with a tip from Jenkins or anyone else in politics. Early voting started Monday. Election Day is November 8. Given how late we are in the process, it would be natural to assume that someone on the blue side of the ballot fed me information to hurt a rival. Not the case. This story started on a dog walk.

Over the weekend, I ran into a neighbor, and we got to talking about the political yard signs that have sprouted up in our hood. Lauren Davis’ name came up. I knew a little bit about her, mostly because I’d recently taken a swim through her campaign finance reports. Her most recent filing is striking for two reasons. First, she has raised a total of $669,606, which is a lot for someone with no previous political experience. Second, 77 percent of that sum came from just five sources: Darwin Deason ($25,000), Amanda Schumacher of Palm Beach ($25,000), Michael Colby of Westlake ($100,000), Lisa and Kenny Troutt ($105,000), and Robert Rowling ($250,000).

The other thing I knew about Davis was that earlier this year some questions had arisen about whether she satisfied the residency requirements to run for county judge. She needed to live in the state for the year prior to the March 1, 2022, primary in which she beat challenger Edwin Flores. Here is what the Dallas Morning News reported in January:

• Republican County Commissioner J.J. Koch “said Davis did not have a Dallas address for much of 2021 and had no record of ever voting in a Republican primary in Dallas County.”

• Dallas County GOP chair Jennifer Stoddard-Hajdu “said she had never met Davis until hours before the candidate filing deadline [in December 2021]. At that time, she said Davis mentioned she had sold her home in Dallas and lived in Puerto Rico until the summer of 2021.” And Stoddard-Hajdu “told the News that although she initially had concerns about Davis’ voting record and residency, she agreed to accept her application for candidacy with advice from the state Republican party.”

(An application for candidacy, by the way, doesn’t require proof of residency, only a statement from the candidate that he or she meets the requirement. I have left multiple messages with Stoddard-Hajdu; she has not responded. Her family has faced its own imbroglio over residency requirements for candidates.)

• “Business records show that Davis and her husband moved ownership of one of their businesses to Puerto Rico in January 2021, and gave a residential address in San Juan as their residence at that time. Property records show the Davises owned a home in Northwest Dallas until December 2020. The address she used to file for office is a rental home in North Dallas that was last on the market in May 2021. Davis told the News this week that she has been a resident of Dallas County since 2012.”

It all seemed strange to me. Here’s a candidate with no experience in politics yet she is raising boatloads of cash, and even her own party chair was selling her out, saying Davis told her she was living in Puerto Rico in the summer of 2021, when a legitimate candidate would have needed to live in Texas since March 2021. I said something to my neighbor on that dog walk about how much money Davis had raised. My neighbor said something to the effect of: “I know a family that let one of Lauren’s sons live with them when Lauren was living in Puerto Rico to reduce her taxes.”

Bethany has broken down Proposition A for you. Me personally, I’m for it. But this ad makes me laugh. Check out this couple as they are having an intimate meal together, discussing private matters—and then suddenly an eavesdropping Ron Kirk is at the next table rudely interrupting to deliver a mood-killing disquisition on hotel taxes. LOL

I’ve watched this ad six times now. I also love the husband’s face right here:

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His mouth is still skeptical about who is going to pay for this deal, but his eyebrows are totally being won over by Ron Kirk. This is an inspired acting performance. Four and a half stars.

One more thing: we can’t figure out which restaurant this is. Hit us in the comments.

Early voting begins on Monday in the November 8 election. The races for governor and Texas attorney general rightly get a lot of the attention, but there are local races that will have a significant impact on Dallas. One of those is for district attorney, where incumbent John Creuzot, a Democrat, is facing Republican challenger Faith Johnson. She last occupied the seat in 2018, after Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to serve following Susan Hawk’s resignation. Johnson’s camp did not respond to multiple requests to join us on EarBurner, so it looks like the podcast will bring you only Creuzot in this contest.

Tim Rogers and Zac Crain sat down with the district attorney to talk about his platform but also about his time working for legendary DA Henry Wade, his ties to the Frenchy’s Chicken chain in Houston, his divert court, Rick Perry, and plenty more. Listen in your ears below or use your favorite podcatcher.

The Associated Press just dropped a big story about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who seven years ago posed for the above photograph taken in the Collin County Jail. I’ll return to that county in a bit, but first here are some highlights from the AP. Just the facts:

Bad guys go free: “In the small town of Gatesville, the fallout [from disorganization in the AG’s office] was felt this month with the collapse of cases dubbed ‘Operation Fallen Angel.’ Six of the people indicted last year on allegations that they were involved in a scheme to force teenage girls to ‘exchange sexual contact for crystal methamphetamine’ are now free. ‘It’s absolutely broken. It’s just broken. You don’t do it this way,’ Republican District Attorney Dusty Boyd said of the attorney general’s office, which took over the cases from his five-lawyer team. “I made the mistake of trusting them that they would come in and do a good job.'”

Staffing shortages: “One prosecutor said he quit in January after supervisors pressured him to withhold evidence in a murder case. Another attorney signed a resignation letter in March that warned of growing hostility toward LGBTQ employees. By August, records show the division over human trafficking cases—a major emphasis in Texas, where more than 50 migrants died in the back of a trailer in June—had a job vacancy rate of 40%.”

Hanky-panky: “[I]n autumn 2020 … eight of Paxton’s top deputies accused the attorney general of using the office to help a political donor who employed a woman with whom Paxton acknowledged having had an extramarital affair. The deputies all quit or were fired after going to the FBI, which opened an investigation that remains ongoing.”

Insanity: “Tom Kelly Gleason, a former ice cream company owner whose father gave $50,000 to the attorney general’s legal defense fund [and who was hired in a senior role], … was fired less than two months into his new job as a law enforcement adviser. Paxton’s office has not disclosed why, but three people with knowledge of the matter said Gleason included child pornography in a work presentation at the agency’s Austin headquarters. The people said Gleason displayed the video—which one of them described as showing a man raping a small child—in a misguided effort to underscore agency investigators difficult work.”

I’ll stop there. You should read the entire AP story. It leads one to wonder about Abraham George, chairman of the Collin County Republican Party. Here is how George assesses Paxton’s first two terms: “He’s been one of the greatest attorneys general for the state of Texas and one of the most conservative ones in the entire country.”

If you agree with George, then Paxton deserves a third term. Election day is Tuesday, November 8.

Politics

Dallas Young Republicans Embrace a Troll

Tim Rogers
By Tim Rogers |

By now I hope you are aware of the concept of Alex Stein. He’s a local guy who does his best to look like Tucker Carlson, sound like Alex Jones, and live large in his father’s Highland Park duplex. D Magazine published a story about him in our May issue, wherein we explained how he was using open-mic time at public meetings to troll municipal bodies and catapult himself onto a national stage. Stein wanted to be a reality TV star; he has settled on this.

So when I heard last month that the Dallas County Young Republicans planned to have Stein speak at one of their meetings, I emailed the group’s president, Chad Cohen, who is an SMU Cox grad and managing partner of Lone Wolf Oil, which doesn’t appear to have a website. I asked Cohen to confirm whether his group planned to host Stein. Cohen wouldn’t answer the question and wanted to know why I was asking. I told him I didn’t have a high opinion of Stein and was curious why the Dallas County Young Republicans would entertain his comments.

In part, Cohen replied: “I’m not going to share information regarding any of our upcoming speakers. I will tell you that our organization is committed to hosting a broad array of speakers with a diverse set of viewpoints. One of the fundamental tenets that we hold as Republicans and as conservatives is that the free and open expression of ideas is vital to the preservation of democracy. We welcome engagement with conflicting viewpoints that promote a climate of ideological independence.”

Cohen wouldn’t speak to me on the phone. I suppose engaging with my conflicting viewpoint was a bridge too far for him.

Our Matt Goodman reported Monday on a recent meeting of the city’s Transportation Committee. As FrontBurnervians have come to expect from Matt, his post about the future of I-345 was measured and fair and well-reported. He quoted council members on the committee as they struggled with the complicated subject of what to do with the 1.7-mile elevated highway, and he got feedback from outside folks such as the director of The Congress for the New Urbanism.

But there was one issue with Matt’s report: when it came to talking about how much delay in traffic would be created by replacing the highway with a boulevard, after reporting that a TxDOT engineer said a boulevard would add 40 to 50 percent to travel times in the corridor, Matt cited urban designer Patrick Kennedy’s competing conclusion, writing: “It would actually be about a five-minute delay.”

At which point I took to Twitter and said, “The city of Dallas is about to piss its future away to save 5 minutes of drive time.” Then I tweeted a thread along the same lines, saying the city was “bending the knee to TxDOT,” even bringing up the ghost of Wick Allison in the process. Man, I was heated.

Politics

Alex Stein: Do Not Share

Jonathan Auping
By Jonathan Auping |
Alex Stein
Lesley Busby

A reality show called The Glass House debuted on ABC in June 2012. Contestants lived together in a house while an online audience manufactured drama by voting on which activities would occupy their time for a given episode. One of those contestants was Alex Stein, a twentysomething Dallas native. In the first 20 seconds of the show’s first episode, Stein looked into the camera and said, “America, should I turn into the most epic villain in the history of reality TV?” He later shared his strategy: “Nobody in this house is going to do what I do. Because I got no shame.” 

Stein was the first contestant voted off the show, which was canceled after one season, and he went on to appear in two more reality shows. Now 36 years old but with the same preppy, boyish appearance—brown hair swooped to the side, he could pass as a younger brother to Tucker Carlson—Stein has found a new way to get attention. He has become a conspiracy-spouting QAnon stunt troll.  

You probably saw the viral video of him at an open microphone portion of a Dallas City Council meeting in February, wearing scrubs and rapping about the COVID-19 vaccine. “All day long, I want to vaccinate your mom. I want to stick it deep in your arm,” Stein rapped to the baffled council members. Dallas Morning News City Hall reporter Everton Bailey Jr. first elevated the video to social media (as of early April, it had racked up 3.6 million views in Bailey’s tweet), and from there it spread to such news outlets as the Daily Mail and Newsweek

This one will take some time. Don’t think you’re going to read it on your phone while you’re waiting for the light to turn green. A couple of days ago, ProPublica and FRONTLINE dropped a joint operation titled “Building the ‘Big Lie’: Inside the Creation of Trump’s Stolen Election Myth.” It runs about 7,000 words. And it starts in Dallas in 2020, in the office of Lewis Sessions, a lawyer and the brother of Rep. Pete Sessions. Lewis’ guest is a man from Venezuela, the former chief of security for Hugo Chávez. The man says he knows how the Democrats used voting machines with corrupted software to steal the presidential election.

No matter that this bogus claim was easily disprovable and that Republican operatives did, indeed, disprove it (before touting it as true). That misinformation became the foundation for the lie that two-thirds of Republicans still to this day believe.

Find the time. Read the whole story.

The pugnacious former Dallas city councilman got a little less than 18 percent of the votes in his bid for Precinct 2 of the Dallas County Commissioners Court. The full results: Andrew Sommerman got 10,021 votes; Michelle Ocker got 10,929; Kingston got 5,245; and Tom Ervin got 3,081.

Sorry. Just wanted to beef up our election coverage.

Politics

Sandra Crenshaw Is Back!

Tim Rogers
By Tim Rogers |
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Photo courtesy Sandra Crenshaw

Sandra Crenshaw and FrontBurner go way back. In 2008, she was serving as a precinct chair in a presidential election. Some stuff went down. We wrote about it. Crenshaw jumped into the comments and wrote a 3,000-word account of her actions that involved a reference to Mountain Dew as “cactus juice,” which got its own entry on Urban Dictionary. Then, in 2014, after the Morning News endorsed Crenshaw in her bid for House District 110, we reported that an affidavit for an arrest warrant two years earlier had described how Crenshaw had rented a Nissan Versa from a Budget car rental near Love Field and refused to return it for three months. Her nephew said she was living in it. When the case was dismissed in 2013, court documents indicated Crenshaw was “mentally ill.”

You know what Crenshaw did when we reported all that? She wrote us a long note admitting that she’d had mental health issues. “There is a joke among genealogists that the easiest way to get research for your family tree is to run for office,” she wrote. “I believe and know now that the greatest way to bring exposure of the plight and discrimination against the mentally ill is for the mentally ill to run for office.” You can read the rest of her letter here.

So yeah. Sandra Crenshaw. I thought she was brave to publicly confront what she was dealing with. That was the last exchange I had with her, eight years ago.

Then this morning I saw that she’d gotten more votes than any of her three opponents in House District 100, the sprawling, gerrymandered district that Mayor Eric Johnson once represented. (The previous representative, Jasmine Crockett, is headed to a runoff for Eddie Bernice Johnson’s longtime congressional seat, in U.S. District 30.) Of the 8,428 ballots cast, Crenshaw got 2,883 or 34.2 percent. She’s now in a runoff with Venton Jones, a real estate agent endorsed by the News who got 728 fewer votes than Crenshaw.

That this is the first story specifically about what happened yesterday in the District 100 race (as far as I can tell) is a depressing reflection of the current state of local news media. I mean, according to her latest campaign filings, Crenshaw, who is her own treasurer and has no campaign website, accomplished this upset with just $500. By contrast, Jones spent about $20,000. This is awesome. Jones spent something on the order of $9.30 for every vote he got; Crenshaw spent 17 cents.

I gave her a call to ask how she did it.