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From Voter Turnout To Water Pipeline Battles, Exploring Saturday's Elections

Krystina Martinez
Gromer Jeffers, left, is with The Dallas Morning News. Bud Kennedy, right, is with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Saturday's municipal elections feature bruising mayoral races, tight city council tilts and tough school board tussles.

For this week’s Friday Conversation a pair of North Texas election experts, Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Gromer Jeffers of The Dallas Morning News, help sort through what's on the ballot.

Mayor’s races

Jeffers: “Marcos Ronquillo, the challenger, has made opposition to the Trinity Toll Road his number one issue [in the Dallas race]. It’s the backbone of his campaign. But when you look at it, he’s not really getting the traction he needs to beat Mayor [Mike] Rawlings, a popular incumbent.”

Kennedy: “Arlington has this real 50/50 mayor’s race. Bob Cluck, who’s been there a long time, brought the Cowboys to Arlington. He originally signaled he might not be coming back for another term and so a lot of the community, business groups, former mayors all coalesced behind Jeff Williams, who is like the mayor-in-waiting. Well, Jeff puts together this big campaign and then Mayor Cluck decides that he’s feeling pretty good after all and his hip surgery came out okay, so he decides he’d like to stay.  Now you have people who are loyal to Mayor Cluck and you have people who are ready to move on and feel like he’s been mayor too long.”

The Tarrant County Water Board

Kennedy: “There’s this Dallas water pipeline that’s at stake in the Tarrant water district race. It’s a $2 billion water project that will bring water from Lake Palestine and it is water that will be for Dallas and Fort Worth, but it is more important to Dallas. The Tarrant Regional Water District is doing construction and maintenance on the project. It’s this eight-foot wide pipeline the size of a tractor-trailer rig.

The campaign is ‘don’t let a Dallas man control Fort Worth’s water.’ What it’s really about is whether there will be a regional approach to bringing water to North Texas, or whether Fort Worth should go off on its own and pull out of the pipeline.”

School board elections

Kennedy: “In general, this is an election with a real anti-incumbent sentiment. You have three school board incumbents who can’t get a superintendent hired and now they have to run for re-election. I think a couple of them have pretty tough challenges and one of them may be forced into a runoff.”

Jeffers: “The incumbents who have questions about [Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles] will probably remain on the board. Miles’ problems are with the existing board and his support has been eroding for quite some time. Even though he survived a vote recently, the trustees have agreed to pursue some sort of succession plan or at least look at life after Mike Miles.”

Early voting

Kennedy: “It’s been an extremely high turnout and as a result, these races are unpredictable. There are a lot of people voting who have no history of voting in local elections. We don’t know who they’ll elect.”

Jeffers: “Bud hit on a couple of things that are nonexistent in Dallas County. One, there’s not a lot of money in the races. The mayoral race is not all that contested and we don’t have a Tea Party presence so not a lot of activists out there pushing people to the polls.”

Kennedy: “The Arlington election is also driven by a proposition about red lights, whether to keep or drop red light cameras. That’s bringing out a lot of people who don’t know any of the names on the ballot.”

Jeffers: “There are no juicy issues like that in Dallas County, so that’s why we’re going to have a 5 to 8 percent turnout, which is pretty poor.

Polls open tomorrow morning at 7 across North Texas. Find your polling place here.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.
Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.