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Arlington Mayor Out, While Dallas Mayor In For Second Term

Saturday's elections brought no changes at the top for the two biggest cities in North Texas. In Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price was unopposed, and in Dallas, Mike Rawlings was re-elected by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. But in the area's third-largest city, a newcomer toppled the six-term mayor.

Arlington voters had not turned out a sitting mayor in 64 years: not since Tom Vandergriff defeated the incumbent BC Barnes. 

This time, engineer and civic leader Jeff Williams easily beat Robert Cluck, mayor for 12 years.

Williams says voters responded to his call for more aggressive development in and around Arlington’s entertainment district.

“We have some great amenities here: Six Flags, Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium," Williams said. "We want to add more family attractions and family businesses here to this area. And, again, make us a premier destination that takes us to another level.”

But there is a job No. 1. 

“The first priority I think is to come in, bring our people together, find things that we can build consensus on: education, another is transportation and, of course, bringing jobs and businesses to Arlington,” Williams said.

Cluck says the early-vote tally with a big lead for Williams made it clear what the voters wanted.

“They felt like it was time for a change," Cluck said. "And he came up and did a good job in the campaign and there’s going to be change. And I’m OK with it. I’ve got another job.”

Cluck, an OB/GYN, is vice president for medical affairs at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

He says he feels good about the city’s accomplishments over the past dozen years, including bringing the Dallas Cowboys to Arlington. And now he’s ready to help with the transition at City Hall.

“I’m proud of Jeff," Cluck said.  "I’m going to support him in any way I can. He’s got a big job, a pretty steep learning curve. And if he needs my help, I’ll give it to him.”

This was the first political race for Williams, president of Graham Associates, a civil engineering firm. 

The challenger in the Dallas mayor’s race was a campaign rookie, too. Lawyer Marcos Ronquillo ran against the proposed Trinity toll road and for more attention to neighborhoods.

“And I stand committed to those issues I raised in the race," Ronquillo said. "Marcos Ronquillo’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”  

Ronquillo says even though he only got about one-quarter of the vote, his candidacy made a difference.

“I think we brought out definitely the issues with respect to the Trinity toll road and DISD, and definitely talking about neighborhood organizations," Ronquillo said. "So, if we can focus on the neighborhoods, I consider this a victory, one way or another.”

Rawlings collected almost 73 percent of the vote. 

“You know I think the citizens of Dallas are very optimistic about Dallas right now, very pumped up about what we’ve accomplished,” Rawlings said.

In his second term, Rawlings will be working with six new City Council members. He says voters want a new tone at City Hall.

“I think they’re saying: 'let’s not fight. Let’s come together.' Find new ways to deal with the Trinity Parkway. Let’s make sure that we keep our safety and the basics going, and reinvest in neighborhoods," Rawlings said. "Those are the things I’m getting from people I talked to.”

In Dallas, candidates in four council races didn't get the 50 percent needed to win. Three districts are in southern neighborhoods; the fourth is in northeast Dallas. They will be decided in runoff elections June 13. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.