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Kirk Leaves City Hall

By Suzanne Sprague

DALLAS – Ron Kirk, outgoing Dallas Mayor: I've been so moved by all of the nice things that have been said and written about me in the last several days, I've decided to extend this and invite y'all back next week. (laughter)

Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 Reporter: Amid hugs and humor, applause and a few borderline tears, Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk resigned from the job he called the most rewarding he's ever had.

Kirk: We built coalitions that people didn't think were possible. We got blacks and Hispanics and whites and Jews and Asians to work together with the business leaders around common goals of making our city better for all of us.

Sprague: That may prove to be a theme in Kirk's campaign for the U.S. Senate. But he hopes the Dallas City Council will continue to pursue his agenda at home.

Kirk: Our dream, my dream for our city, is to keep that magic going, and to do that, we can't look back and we can't turn back.

Sprague: Kirk told supporters at City Hall to "dream big." He prided himself on winning voter approval for the Trinity River project and downtown arena while securing the Nasher Sculpture Garden. But Kirk also warned that those big dreams should be balanced by an emphasis on the daily needs of Dallas residents. Acting Mayor Mary Poss told reporters she shared that vision.

Mary Poss, Acting Mayor: Certainly my priorities have always been that the citizens of our city are safe, that our city is safe, that we effectively deliver basic services and that will continue to be my primary focus. It's going to be business as usual at City Hall, even though across the country we're facing some unusual times.

Sprague: But several other city council members, including Veletta Forsythe Lill, acknowledged Wednesday marked the beginning of a new, and uncertain era, at City Hall.

Veletta Lill, Dallas City Councilwoman (District 14): Most of us have spent many years with Ron Kirk in the lead, and it's difficult to say how it will change. Ron Kirk transitioned us into a minority-majority city with grace, and I hope that we will be able to stay together. I don't think we will break down in terms of racial difference or ethnic differences.

Leo Chaney, Dallas City Councilman (District 7): His leadership loss is going to be tremendous.

Sprague: Leo Chaney represents parts of South Dallas on the Council and has been a close ally of Ron Kirk.

Chaney: And he had the uncanny ability of making us - not making us, but cajoling us to work together and develop some form of chemistry. And so from that perspective, his leadership will be missed tremendously.

Sprague: So far, two men have said they'll run to replace Ron Kirk. Former DFW Airport Chairman Tom Dunning attended Kirk's afternoon press conference. And restaurateur Tom Landis launched his campaign from Fort Worth last night. But conspicuously absent from yesterday's political scene was Dallas City Councilwoman Laura Miller. A number of City Hall observers expect Miller will announce a bid to replace Kirk in the next few days. Community activist Dave Marquis says that will have major political implications for Oak Cliff and fellow Council member Ed Oakley.

Dave Marquis, Oak Cliff Activist: If Laura Miller runs, then her seat is vacant in District 3, and there are several people who have said they'd like to run for that seat. That means that in two years, when Ed Oakley moves into District 3 because of redistricting, there will be two incumbents. So the phone lines in Oak Cliff are burning up right now, talking about what's going to happen.

Sprague: The phone lines are burning up all across the city, by some accounts with the possibility of two additional candidates: State Representative Domingo Garcia and attorney Darrell Jordan. Political consultant Rob Allyn says Dallas residents can anticipate the most competitive mayor's race in more than a decade.

Rob Allyn, Political Consultant: I mean, this will be the most hotly contested race we've had in Dallas Texas since Annette Strauss and Fred Meyer and four candidates spent over five or six million dollars 14 years ago running for mayor.

Sprague: There's hardly time to raise that kind of money in this election because the campaign will likely last less than 80 days. So, taking a cue from the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, Allyn predicted this mayoral campaign will be "nasty, brutish and short." For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.