Dallas Really Doesn't Care About City Government and Other Takeaways From Saturday's City Council Election
There was a City Council election on Saturday and, if you're like the vast majority of Dallas, you didn't notice. But whether you were paying attention or not, some important things were decided and some interesting trends emerged.
Here's what you need to know:
Angela Hunt's legacy: Saturday's most interesting race was the District 14 contest to replace Angela Hunt, who is term limited. The vacant seat drew a crowded field of seven challengers, but the race soon turned into a referendum of sorts on Hunt's term in office.
Hunt threw her weight behind attorney Philip Kingston. Her name and face were featured prominently in his mailings, on his website, and at his campaign appearances. His main challenger was Bobby Abtahi, a 31-year-old former community prosecutor and City Plan Commission member who has the backing of Hunt's opponents in the Dallas establishment.
They're headed for a runoff, Kingston having grabbed 33 percent of the vote to Abtahi's 25. The attacks began almost immediately. "Now the voters have a clear choice -- someone with a record of success strengthening neighborhoods, or someone who sues their neighbors," Abtahi told The Dallas Morning News after the results came in on Saturday.
(Kingston called to offer a response. "There's only one candidate in this race that has any record of service to District 14," he said. "The other one is a stranger to the district.")
(Abtahi called to respond to Kingston's response. "I was born on Greenville Avenue [and] got my first job in the district," he says. He's lived in the district since college, plus "I'm the only candidate born and raise in Dallas.")
Should be a good show.
Roger Staubach is a football god: How else to explain what happened in District 13, where his daughter, a nurse and community volunteer, just trounced longtime businessman Leland Burk?
To be fair, Jennifer Staubach Gates seems eminently competent and like she will do a fine job on the City Council. It's just that she lacks the decades of business experience and demonstrated fiscal hawkishness that Preston Hollow loves. Her two immediate predecessors, Ann Margolin and Mitchell Rasansky, both endorsed Burk. One imagines the vote would have turned out differently if her name were simply Jennifer Gates, or if her campaign hadn't so thoroughly highlighted -- and bold-faced, and underlined -- the Staubach name.
Then again, her dad did lead the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories and throw that Hail Mary touchdown pass to Drew Pearson. We could use some of that on the council. The picture from the front page of Sunday's Morning News suggests that Mike Rawlings thinks so.
Hispanics need to exercise their political muscle: The maps that were finally adopted following 2011's redistricting battle seemed to promise that Hispanics would add a seat on the City Council. Four of the new districts had a Hispanic voting-age population of 56 percent or more. It could have been five, but at least it wasn't three.
Now, there's a distinct possibility that Hispanics might actually lose a seat. Scott Griggs soundly defeated Delia Jasso in heavily Hispanic District 1 while in Pleasant Grove's new District 5, which was also drawn to favor Hispanics, longtime activist Jesse Diaz finds himself in a runoff with white businessman Rick Callahan, who came away from Saturday with a plurality of votes. If Callahan wins, Monica Alonzo and Adam Medrano will be the only two Latinos on the council. Which brings us to our next point ...
Scott Griggs is a prodigy: Demographics were stacked against Griggs, who this year found himself battling fellow incumbent Jasso for a district that's three-quarters Hispanic. It didn't matter. Griggs' leadership on key issues (gas drilling comes to mind), his embrace of North Oak Cliff-style urbanism and a well-documented independent streak has won him a dedicated following. Now he officially takes over from Angela Hunt as the City Hall's resident thorn in the side of the Dallas establishment. His future is bright.
Dallas really doesn't care about city government: We knew going in that turnout in Saturday's contest was going to be low. With no mayor's race, no big-ticket stadium or convention center hotel, and America's general enthusiasm for exercising the franchise, that was a foregone conclusion. But Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole and others predicted the tally would at least creep into the double digits.
Alas, such predictions gave Dallas voters way too much credit. The final count put turnout at a shade under 7 percent. Just how bad was it? Attorney Michael Li offers this handy graph on his Texas Redistricting blog.
Congratulations, Dallas. You really outdid yourself.