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Politics

After three decades, voters in Texas' 30th Congressional District will elect a new representative

Primary candidates have dozens of signs outside of voting locations in Oak Cliff.
Trevon McWilliams
/
KERA News
Candidates vying for the 30th Congressional District seat have dozens of signs outside of voting locations in Oak Cliff.

The 30th Congressional District, representing southern and downtown Dallas, has long been represented by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat. Now, a crowded field of candidates from both sides of the aisle are vying to fill her seat.

Within that district is Dooney’s Barber and Beauty Academy, located in southern Dallas. When you walk in, you’re greeted with lively chatter and the hum of clippers hard at work.

Owner Duwayne Brown, known to many as “Dooney," has his eye on the changing political leadership in the community.

“I believe it starts with one person at a time, especially when it comes to us as Black people," Brown said, "because we [have] been psychologically so damaged through generations to where we've kind of self-consciously been taught not to come together.”

Within Dallas County, Texas' 30th Congressional District is reliably Democratic. Since 1993, it's been represented by Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a political trailblazer who was the first Black woman to hold public office in Dallas.

Johnson started her a career as a psychiatric nurse and says being a politician wasn’t the future she envisioned for herself.

“I was encouraged to run," Johnson said. "I never dreamed about running, never planned on running. I was really encouraged each time from people around me, the voters, the citizens.”

Johnson, who announced plans to retire last year, is serving out her 15th term in office. She says the district has evolved in its boundaries and demographic makeup, and that presents a unique challenge for her successor.

“It has not remained the same configuration for me," Johnson said of the district boundaries. "What you can do in those areas depends a great deal on whether there is fairness and justice in the approach, and so it all goes together. That is a fact that whoever’s going in needs to understand.”

Six Republicans and nine Democrats are now vying to fill Johnson's seat. One candidate from each party will move on to the general election after the primary election March 1.

Ervin James III, associate history professor at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, notes that the 30th Congressional District holds culturally rich communities, such as Oak Cliff, Oak Lawn and Joppa.

“I think we stand a good chance of having new leadership with new ideas that may very well be just as effective, if not more so," James said.

James says the candidates running for this seat face a diversifying voter base.

“It’s very rare that you have a situation where you don’t have to be mindful of that type of diversity that exists," he said. "And in Texas, I can’t imagine anyone being elected without being familiar with that community and also being authentic in terms of the type of leadership and concern that they show.”

Dooneys Barber and Beauty Academy
Solomon Wilson
/
KERA News
Duwayne Brown, owner of Dooney's Barber and Beauty Academy in southern Dallas, hopes the next representative of District 30 will stay true to the community.

At Dooney's Barber and Beauty Academy, Duwayne Brown hopes to see stronger political organizing at the local level. He says that could elevate the issues at stake in TX-30 to congressional and local leaders.

"Putting together some type of committee that we can put together and say, 'look, you own this, I own that,'" Brown said, "and start [to] try to control our economics where we can strongly come before any councilman, anyone that supposed to representing our community, to where now we have a voice.”

A success story to many, Brown’s longstanding business has allowed him to witness the evolution of his community. He's seen neighbors come and go. Some local businesses have thrived while others failed to survive.

As he looks to the future of TX-30, Brown hopes candidates remain true to the people they vow to represent.

“You have to be people-sensitive," he said. "They have to be mindful of all these different perspectives...”

Brown says history reminds us that voting is a valuable civil right.

“Our ancestors, they worked hard to get us to this point and they sacrificed and they died with their blood sweat and tears [so] that we may have the opportunity to vote," he said. "I don’t judge anyone that doesn’t vote, but if you have the opportunity to vote, vote, especially if you believe in the candidate you’re voting for.”

Got a tip? Email Solomon Wilson at swilson@kera.org. You can follow Solomon on Twitter @SolomonSeesIt.

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