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4 Key Takeaways From A Low-Turnout, High-Impact Election Weekend In North Texas

On election night, State Rep. Eric Johnson led a crowded field of nine candidates for Dallas mayor. He'll face City Council member Scott Griggs on June 8.
Bill Zeeble
On election night, State Rep. Eric Johnson led a crowded field of nine candidates for Dallas mayor. He'll face City Council member Scott Griggs on June 8.

A busy weekend of local elections brought clarity in Fort Worth — where the mayor and the entire City Council were re-elected — and in Arlington, where the mayor coasted to an easy win. But in Dallas, things are murkier, at least until the June 8 runoff.

Gromer Jeffers of the Dallas Morning News is one of the folks trying to make sense of the results. He sat down with KERA to talk about four key things we learned this weekend:

1) Oak Cliff/West Dallas Rising
Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Scott Griggs, who's represented North Oak Cliff on the Dallas City Council for eight years, celebrates making the runoff Saturday night.

The two finalists for Dallas mayor hail from the south and west sides of the Trinity River. Eric Johnson, who collected 20% of Saturday's vote, was born in West Dallas and represents a chunk of that area in the Texas Legislature. Scott Griggs, who got 18.5%, has lived in North Oak Cliff for nearly two decades and has represented it on the City Council since 2011.

Neither is rooted in North Dallas, the city's traditional political decision ground. The three candidates with stronger ties there — Lynn McBee, Mike Ablon and Regina Montoya — finished out of the runoff.

2) Last In, First Place

Johnson, bidding to be the city's second African-American mayor, was the last of the nine candidates to join the race. And he spent much of the campaign in Austin during the current legislative session. Yet when the final numbers came in, he was sitting in the lead.

The Legislature is scheduled to wrap up on Memorial Day, which would give Johnson a little less than two weeks to barnstorm back home.

3) Municipal Voters Skew Old School

Dallas school board trustee Miguel Solis built a flashy campaign with slick signs and compelling TV ads.  But he ended up with just a little over 10% of the vote in a race that saw only 1 in 10 registered voters in Dallas go to the polls.

His inability to make the runoff, Jeffers says, is partly because of his age — 32 — and the age of the electorate. The final numbers are still out, but among early voters, 77% were over 50, with 47% over 65.

4) Signs Of Change In Fort Worth?

Betsy Price won a fifth term as mayor, and the entire Fort Worth City Council was re-elected. Yet this was Price's tightest race — she defeated Deborah Peoples by 14 percentage points.

Jeffers points out that Peoples, head of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, took a partisan approach to what is purportedly a nonpartisan office. And while Price positions herself as a business-friendly, centrist Republican, he says the relative closeness of this result means we could see more partisanship in a city that's one of the biggest run by a Republican in the country.