Dallas mayor runs 'unopposed' — sort of. What that means for voters
Early voting for Dallas County general elections starts April 24th. Mayor Eric Johnson and nearly all city of Dallas council members are up for reelection.
While the mayor’s campaign has gained significant media coverage, at least one political analyst says an unopposed candidacy could mean less election oversight.
Local media has reported Johnson is the first sitting mayor to run “unopposed” since 1967. But that's not the whole story. The mayor’s name might be the only one printed on Dallas voter’s ballots, but technically he is not running alone.
Others have tried to make it on the ballot — with little success.
For now, voters will choose between the current mayor and one write-in candidate. Dallas City Secretary Billie Rae Johnson says write-in candidates must be eligible voters and file a form with the county. Kendal Richardson, a 44-year-old New York native, was the only person to do so.
Cal Jillson is a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. He says historically, successful write-in candidates are rare — especially against an incumbent mayor.
“Write-in candidates have to have a major visibility," Jillson said. "Then they have to have a substantial campaign in order to be successful."
Richardson spent a lot of his childhood in Virginia, according to his campaign website. He’s been in Texas for about 12 years, but only in Dallas for the last two years, according to his write-in candidate application.
His campaign slogan is “Uniting Voices for a Better Dallas” and lists a more robust economy, stable education and greater access to citizenship as his top priorities for the city.
Jillson says there’s been two write-in candidates that he can remember winning their campaigns — both were running for U.S. Senate.
Johnson and Richardson were not the only candidates vying for mayor. Jmar Jefferson applied for a place on the ballot but was disqualified.
The Dallas city secretary said that Jefferson didn’t have enough signatures to meet ballot requirements, according to The News. Jefferson has addressed City Council on a few different occasions claiming that his civil rights were violated and calling for the resignation of several Dallas city officials.
The News reported that Jefferson filed a lawsuit in a Dallas County court, requesting that his name be placed on the ballot ahead of the May 6th elections. The judge essentially said election disputes needed to be heard by a higher court.
Jillson says he doesn’t think the current mayor is worried about his write-in challenger. But running virtually unopposed could be significant to Dallas voters — especially when it comes to oversight.
“What it means is that he can present the most positive view of his first term as mayor, without being challenged by an opponent who might raise questions about those accomplishments and might point to things that failed to get done,” Jillson said.
Johnson has been vocal about a substantial decrease in violent crime, a new task force aimed at addressing homelessness and the city’s development ventures.
But in a city government designed as a “weak mayor system,” Jillson says the role of mayor means running the city “at a distance.”
In Dallas the City Manager controls the city on a daily — and weekly — basis. Jillson says the mayor and city council set broader policy goals. Essentially the mayor is the 15th council member.
“A weak mayor system can be frustrating for someone that was elected city-wide who has the financial and public support of the Downtown Business Community, but at the end of the day doesn’t actually run the city,” Jillson said.
Dallas residents will have to decide who will take the helm of the city come election day. Jillson says usually voters are most concerned with the “meat and potatoes” work of city government. Roads, public safety and how efficiently the Dallas bureaucracy is working.
“In city government people often say, there’s no Republican or Democrat way to fill potholes,” Jillson said. “…there’s just a lot of meat and potatoes work to be done.”
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