Changes in the Wind for Dallas Mayor’s Race

Categories: Political Commentary • Published on January 13, 2011 at 7:26 PM

On January 11, Gromer Jeffers of the Dallas Morning News posted the story, Leppert’s likely departure sets off scramble to field Dallas mayor candidates, indicating that incumbent Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is “all but certain” to not run for re-election. Based on previous rumors about Mayor Leppert’s future plans, this could be likely to begin building a statewide campaign to take on Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2012 Republican Primary. Time will tell what Leppert intends.

I mentioned in my previous post, Gearing up for 2011 in Dallas, that there were at least two Dallas City Councilors waiting to see if Mayor Leppert would run for re-election. Since that article, we already have one candidate who has announced their campaign and potentially four additional contenders. So without further ado, let’s take a look into each of these candidates. I am including in parentheses what region of Dallas each candidate resides within.

Jim Moore (Preston Hollow) – Announced

Jim Moore gets listed first because he is the only candidate that has formally announced his campaign. Jim is a criminal defense attorney that resides in Preston Hollow (North Dallas) in City Councilwoman Linda Koop’s district 11. While Jim may have voted in the 2010 Democratic Primary, his track record of voting in the 2006, 2002, 1998, 1996, 1994, and 1992 Republican Primaries give an indication of his political leanings. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore did not vote in any primary in 2008 or 2004.

Gromer Jeffers stated in his article that Jim is virtually an unknown compared to other potential candidates, and will have his work cut out for him. Since Jim announced his candidacy before 12/31/2010, it will be interesting to see what his upcoming finance report has to say about his campaign. Mr. Moore’s campaign could be a potential dark horse, but that remains to be seen.
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Angela Hunt (Lower Greenville) – Potential

Angela Hunt has represented District 14 on the Dallas City Council since 2005. She was voted “Best Council Person” by the Dallas Voice in 2008 and 2009, and also “Most Effective Councilmember” by the Dallas Morning News in 2008. Councilwoman Hunt has also been a strong Democratic supporter, and many see her as a possible rising star for higher office.

Polling of Dallas City Councilmembers has suggested that Angela is one of the most well-known and popular members of the Dallas City Council on a citywide basis. However, her opposition to many of Mayor Leppert’s policies and initiatives has put Angela at odds with many local leaders of the business community.

If Angela decides to run, she will need to raise several million dollars in order to win. Tom Leppert spent over $2.1 million dollars in 2007 in his election campaign. However, as former Dallas City Councilman and current School Board President Larry Duncan has proven multiple times, money is not everything when it comes to local municipal races. As a three term councilwoman, Mrs. Hunt is no stranger to campaigning, and can build a grassroots support network throughout the city.
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Ron Natinsky (Far North Dallas) – Potential

Ron was first elected to the Dallas City Council in 2005 along with Angela Hunt. Councilman Natinsky is a former businessman who has a strong track record of voting in Republican primaries. While Angela Hunt has a strong history of opposing Mayor Leppert, Ron Natinsky has been the opposite on the matter and been an ardent supporter of the Mayor’s policies. A key indicator that Natinsky is in and Leppert out is the fact that Natinsky has hired local consultant Carol Reed, who worked on Leppert’s 2007 campaign as well as other Leppert initiatives such as the Trinity vote.

Ron Natinsky’s campaign finance report posted on July 15, 2010 shows that Ron had $51k cash on hand. A strong start for any candidate running for city council, and Ron has had an additional 6 months to raise more money. Councilman Natinsky’s strong support of Tom Leppert will likely allow him to step in with the business community that has backed the Mayor. This should allow him to lockup strong support and funds.

One local political consultant bluntly said “Natinsky is so far up Leppert’s #%$#@ that you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.”
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Mike Rawlings (Preston Hollow) – Potential

Mike Rawlings currently sits on the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Board, which is considered a springboard for potential mayoral or city council candidates. Mr. Rawlings is also the former CEO of Pizza Hut, and has contributed thousands of dollars to both national and local Democratic candidates, including 2010 gubernatorial candidate Bill White.

If Mike Rawlings steps into the race, it is highly likely that he will lock up much of the Democratic fundraising community behind his banner. He is already independently wealthy and lives in Preston Hollow so he can also self-fund his own campaign. This will easily make Rawlings one of the heavies in the race should he decide to run.

Since Mike Rawlings has not actually announced, he has no campaign website. I am including an article below discussing his appointment to the Parks and Recreation Board by Mayor Leppert for your reading enjoyment, instead.

Brint Ryan (Preston Hollow) – Potential

Brint Ryan’s name came up in a recent poll asking about potential mayoral candidates. Neither Brint nor the polling firm is saying who was behind the poll. However, Brint has been included due to his past willingness to run for elected office, and proven he is not shy about spending his wealth in an election campaign.

Brint Ryan is the CEO of Ryan, Inc, which is a large tax services firm based in Dallas and founded by Brint. Ryan, Inc is also where potential 2012 Senate candidate John Sharp works as a Principal out of their Austin office. In 2009, Brint Ryan made an unsuccessful run to take the open seat in District 13 that was vacated by Mitch Rasansky. While Brint lost to Ann Margolin, he did spend over $1 million dollars in his election campaign.

Brint has shown in 2009 that he is not above spending large amounts of money to build name recognition, and can easily self-fund his campaign. Brint also has the benefit of hindsight from 2009 to understand the potential pitfalls in his background that his opponents will try to exploit.

Unfortunately, Brint’s voting history is sparse at best, which also dogged him during his own council campaign. During this campaign, he labeled himself as a conservative businessman. Since then he has gone on to vote in the 2010 Republican primary. All of these factors should give an indication of Brint’s political leanings.

Time for a Mayor that shares Democratic values

Dallas County is a solid Democratic county in North Texas. This was proven for a third time in a row when every countywide Democratic candidate won their election, despite the terrible losses in the State Legislature. As Dallas County is blue so is the City of Dallas. Presently, 8 Democrats sit on a 14 member City Council, which is led by a Republican mayor. In the 2009 Municipal Election, over 22,000 people who voted have also voted in two of the last three Democratic Primaries. Compare this to the roughly 14,000 people who voted in two of the last three Republican primaries and also voted in the 2009 Municipal Election.

I stated in my previous post that first-time partisan candidates who have campaigned and served in non-partisan offices typically make stronger candidates. They have a better idea of how to campaign, report finances, and also serve as an elected official. It is time that Democrats help elect their future leaders to municipal offices, such as Dallas Mayor and City Council.

James Van Sickle
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