Looking Ahead at the 2019 Dallas Mayoral Race

Only one person so far has officially announced a bid for mayor of Dallas, the election of which will be held in May 2019. The winner will replace current mayor, Mike Rawlings, who will finish out his eight-year term in June. Rawlings, the former CEO of Pizza Hut, tackled “critical issues” like “bridging the divide between the city’s prosperous northern and struggling southern areas.” He also steered Dallas through the 2014 Ebola scare, and navigated the repercussions of the 2016 ambush and shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers. In December 2017, Rawlings announced his Goals for Dallas 2030 Plan, a “new comprehensive plan for the city’s future – a road map for government officials, nonprofits and corporations.” While the process of creating this complicated agenda will likely be finished before Rawlings leaves office, the actual “goals” themselves will be left to be carried out by Rawling’s successor. Perhaps this is why Dallas political consultant Carol Reed, who has managed two successful mayoral campaigns, said, “The next mayor really needs to move it to the next level. It takes a mayor to make important things happen and keep the city on the right path.” Reed believes that the candidate pool will likely be large, and that fundraising will be a way to whittle it down: “It’s going to take at least $1.5 million, and that’s on the low end.”

So far, 16 people, many of whom are heavily involved in local politics, have reportedly been considering tossing their hats in the ring. The list includes Dallas businessman Albert Black, Dallas city councilman Dwaine Caraway, Dallas city councilman Philip Kingston, Dallas city councilman Scott Griggs, Dallas city councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, Dallas city councilman Adam McGough, former Dallas city councilwoman Angela Hunt, Texas state representative Rafael Anchia, former Texas state representative Helen Giddings, Texas state representative Jason Villalba, former Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Dallas developer Mike Ablon, Dallas developer Peter Brodsky, Dallas attorney and former Dallas Park Board president Bobby Abtahi, and Dallas attorney and former Dallas Park Board president Bobby Abtahi.

Candidates will also need to consider voter turnout. In 2015, when Rawlings was elected to his second term, only 42,087 people voted out of a population of around 1.2 million. Texas itself has one of the lowest voter registrations in the country: “The state ranks 44th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in voter registration, and it ranked 47th out of 51 for turnout during the 2016 election.” 68 percent of eligible Texans are registered to vote, however among Texans aged 18-24, only 48 percent are registered to vote.

Albert Black

Albert Black, a Dallas businessman and former Chairman of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, launched his campaign on July 21. A Dallas native, Black grew up in the Frazier Courts public housing project, which was recently renovated into the Frazier Townhomes. In 1982, Black founded On-Target Supplies & Logistics, Ltd., a “regional logistics management firm that provides outsourced services to a diverse set of Fortune 500 companies and large non-profit organizations.” Black was also the first African-American Chairman of the Dallas Regional Chamber, where he “worked closely with former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to develop and fulfill international joint trade missions, building productive and sustaining business partnerships for the city of Dallas.”

I am running for mayor because I believe in Dallas,” Black said. “I believe Dallas can and should be a place where everyone who wants to find a good paying job can get one, and where they can afford to stay, live and raise their families, just as I was able to do.”

According to The Dallas News, Black will “have to develop a coalition that includes strong support in northern and southern Dallas, a difficult task in a city that often features fractured politics.” However, this is not the first time Black’s name has been posed as a potential candidate for mayor– due to his “strong ties to the city’s business elite,” he’s been a rumored contendor in the past. Black has also been “one of the most visible volunteers in Dallas,” which has allowed him to develop close relationships with past mayors, including Mayor J. Erik Jonsson and Mayor Tom Leppert. According to Black, “I was young enough when I got started in my career in volunteerism that I had access to some of the greatest political and business leaders that Dallas had to offer. Exposure to those men and women formed my career.”

Black said that he will be stepping away from his business, On Target Logistics, in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. Black also says that he has spoken to all of the other 15 potential candidates, hoping to “persuade others to join him instead of running against him.” According to Reed, Black has “all the things you’d look for in a candidate for mayor, no matter what color they are.”

Dwaine Caraway

Dallas city councilman Dwaine Caraway, a Democrat, has reportedly been “weighing [his] options” with regards to the mayor’s seat. Caraway, a graduate of Roosevelt High School and Texas Southern University, served as the interim mayor of Dallas from February 2011 to June 2011, after previous mayor Tom Leppert resigned to run for the U.S. Senate. He also served as deputy mayor pro tempore from 2007 to 2009 and mayor pro tempore from 2009 to 2011. He reportedly owns The Profile Group, an advertising and consulting company.

When Caraway was mayor pro tempore, he reportedly met with city officials over a land deal for the Dallas school bus agency that became the subject of a federal investigation. Caraway also worked as a consultant for Louisiana businessman Slater Swartwood Sr., who pleaded guilty in 2017 to “federal money-laundering charge for funneling bribes and kickbacks to an official at the bus agency, Dallas County Schools.” Caraway told officials in January 2018 that he was not involved in any business deals with the bus agency while working for Swartwood Sr. Records show, however, that one of Swartwood’s companies, Elf Investments, paid Caraway $50,000 for consulting services. Caraway also admitted that Elf Investments separately loaned his family $20,000. Reportedly, “Swartwood and another Louisiana businessman, Robert Leonard, were involved in deals that caused the financial collapse of the school bus agency, costing local taxpayers millions of dollars.”

In 2016, Caraway was involved in a brawl at a gospel radio station in Dallas. According to The Dallas Morning News, one of Caraway’s staffers, George Nash, accused City Commissioner John Wiley Price of choking him at gospel radio station KHVN-AM Heaven. After that, Caraway allegedly shouted at Price, accusing him of ruining his first marriage by sleeping with his then-wife. Nobody involved was indicted.

Caraway also honored convicted dog-fighter Michael Vick by giving him a key to the city in 2011 while he was serving as Mayor Pro Tempore. Mayor Tom Leppert said Caraway’s action were “not sanctioned by him” and was “not an official honor on behalf of the City of Dallas.”

Philip Kingston

The Dallas Morning News reported in early July that Kingston was considering a run for mayor, alongside fellow city councilman Scott Griggs, and former city councilwoman Angela Hunt. Philip Kingston graduated from Trinity University in 1994 and earned his JD from Baylor University in 1999. He was first elected to the Dallas city council in June 2013, representing District 14. He is a two-time winner of the LGBT Task Force’s Spirit of Equality Ally Award, and received widespread recognition for his plan to repurpose older, abandoned buildings to serve as homeless shelters during emergencies. Since city council members are elected as nonpartisan officials, Kingston’s political affiliation is not entirely clear. However, he was endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, an “organization of politically active individuals working for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community in the city of Dallas and the state of Texas.” He has earned endorsements from a number of other organizations as well, including the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, the Dallas Police Association, and Sierra Club:

In July 2017, Dallas city officials said that councilman Philip Kingston owed taxpayers thousands of dollars for missing too many council meetings. The Dallas Morning News reported that “Chief financial officer Elizabeth Reich told Kingston in a memo that he missed too many meetings in the 12 months ending June 19 and needs to pay the city back $8,160 of his $60,000 salary.” Kingston called the demand a “witch hunt,” and refused to pay anything. Reportedly “In Kingston’s case, Reich’s memo lists 11 unexcused absences out of 81 scheduled meetings. That came out to 13.6 percent of his scheduled regular meetings. The East Dallas council member, like many of his colleagues, missed several other meetings, but the council voted to designate those absences as ‘official city business.’ The designation excuses those absences.” Kingston agreed to pay back the wages in late 2017.

During the 2017 city council election, Kingston faced strong opposition from a PAC funded largely by Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings. The PAC, For Our Community, spent nearly $200,000 on the District 14 race, “blanketing Kingston’s district with flyers and [producing] an online ad that says Kingston is too rude to tolerate.” Mike Rawlings’ former campaign manager, Mari Woodlief, ran the PAC. When asked about it, Kingston said, “Who is really behind the PAC? Of course it’s the mayor, it’s the mayor and his check writing friends.” Despite being massively outspent, Kingston won reelection in 2017.

In 2013, journalist Anna Merlan published a piece featuring a group of women who were fighting to protect women’s right to go topless in public. The cover of the story featured a picture of bare cartoon breasts. Merlin shared the post to her Facebook page, after which Kingston commented “Click bait. Worked.” His comment was time-stamped a few minutes after 1:30 pm, when a city council meeting was in progress.

Scott Griggs

Scott Griggs graduated from Texas A&M University and earned his JD from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a partner at the law firm of Griggs Bergen LLP. Griggs was first elected to the Dallas city council in 2011 to “represent District 3 and the residents of West Dallas, Oak Cliff, and Mountain Creek/The Woods. In May 2013, Scott was reelected to represent residents of North Oak Cliff in the redrawn District 1. He was reelected again in 2015 and 2017.”

In May 2015, Dallas News reported that Griggs was “under threat of a felony indictment” for threatening assistant city secretary Bilierae Johnson in City Hall:

According to an incident report posted by Dallas police on its blog, around 1 p.m. on April 13 Griggs went to the City Secretary’s Office to talk to Assistant City Secretary Bilierae Johnson about ‘the posting of an item that was to be discussed in a special meeting’… The report – which was filed eight days after the incident allegedly occurred – says Griggs ‘began screaming’ at Johnson and told her, ‘You better not push those briefing materials out, or I will break your f—— fingers.’ The report says Johnson called a colleague for assistance, and that while they were on the phone, this person ‘could hear Suspect Griggs yelling at Complainant Johnson that this is bull—- and someone needed to come talk to him now’… The report says the screaming and obscenities continued for a while concerning documents Griggs wanted. ‘The atmosphere in the office was tense and had the appearance of that of a bully and his victims,’ says the report.

Jennifer Staubach Gates

City councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, a “lifelong Dallasite” and the daughter of NFL Hall of Famer and Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach, attended Ursuline Academy before receiving her Nursing degree from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio. Gates was first elected as a nonpartisan member of the Dallas city council in 2013, and is currently serving her third term representing Dallas’ District 13. Although municipal elections in Dallas are nonpartisan, one source claims that Gates is a conservative Republican like her father Roger Gates. She serves as the chair of the Government Performance and Financial Management Committee, sits on the Public Safety Committee as well as the Arts and Culture and Libraries Committee, and is Co-Chair of the Visit Dallas Board of Directors. She also chairs the Domestic Violence Task Force.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Gates “has long been mentioned as a contender,” but “has not committed to a campaign.”

In 2017, Gates voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a Dallas park. Although she was “only one vote” in the 13-1 city council decision, Gates was singled out in a series of attack ads run by a group called the Conservative Response Team. The group condemned the decision and called for Gates’ resignation in a radio ad:

Gates called the monument to General Lee, dedicated by President Roosevelt, a statue memorializing white supremacy, neo-Nazis and the Klan. And that’s what she thinks of you, too. Jennifer Staubach Gates, her alt-left rhetoric is right out of Black Lives Matter and Antifa. The General Lee monument may be down, but Jennifer Staubach Gates is still in office. Call her and tell her to resign.

Adam McGough

Adam McGough, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas, earned a B.A. in Economics as a University of Texas at Austin Longhorn before earning his J.D. from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. In 2015 he was elected to the Dallas city council to represent District 10.

McGough has connections to current Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings. In 2013, before he became a city council member, Rawlings asked McGough to join his office as Chief of Strategic Initiatives and lead GrowSouth, a program that focused on improving education and economic development in Southern Dallas. He was soon promoted to serve as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff. While in this position, McGough became involved in the response to the Ebola crisis in Dallas, the JFK Commemorative, the New Cities Summit, and establishing the Mayor’s Rising Star Council.

Like Jennifer Staubach Gates, McGough expressed his desire to see Dallas’ confederate monuments removed. In an August 2017 Facebook post, he wrote:

I stand with my brothers and sisters and call for the expeditious relocation of confederate monuments in Dallas. I call for a great commitment to engage in a purposeful and meaningful discussion to thoughtfully address the long-term outcomes that may include permanently relocating these statues, modifying them, or even maintaining them only if there is some consensus story of redemption, progress and unity that may arise.

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt attended Rice University before receiving her JD from The University of Texas School of Law. At 33, she became the youngest woman ever to be elected to the Dallas city council. She served on the Dallas city council for eight years before joining the law firm of Munsch Hardt in the Real Estate Section.

Hunt has reportedly been considering a bid for Dallas mayor in 2019. Hunt’s most famous achievement was her successful battle against the development of a toll road that would cut through Dallas, inside the Trinity River levees. Proponents of the toll road argued that it would ease traffic congestion and provide more direct access to an urban park that was also proposed. Hunt centered her crusade on the toll road. She argued that it was too expensive and “from a transportation standpoint, it was mimicking already existing highways.” She added, “We were giving up our park, this central, natural asset, for people who wanted a shortcut through our city – not to our city.”

She publicly debated the need for the road, using her position on city council to influence council members and voters alike. After she left city council, she continued to lobby and petition. In the end, the road was not built, and the Dallas city council began discussing other options to relieve congestion.

Rafael Anchia

Rafael Anchia graduated from Southern Methodist University and served as a Senior Fellow at Tulane University Law School. From 2011 to 2015, he served President Obama as an “appointee to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations which advises the White House and U.S. Trade Representative on trade and investment agreements.” Currently a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, Anchia has represented Dallas-based 103rd District since 2004 and is the president of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.

According to The Dallas News, “Operatives and business leaders have been trying to get state Rep. Rafael Anchia to run for mayor for years. He’s mulling it over – again.”

In May 2018, Anchia joined other Hispanic groups in suing the US Census Bureau for its inclusion of a question about citizenship on the 2020 US census. According to Anchia, the “decision to add this question to the census, which takes place every 10 years, puts Texans in danger to obtain their ‘[fair share]’ in the distribution of federal funds.” According to the lawsuit filed by numerous Hispanic groups, the citizenship question “violates the protection clause guaranteed by the Constitution ‘because it is motivated by racial animosity towards Latinos, Asian Americans and animosity towards non-US citizens and people born abroad.’”

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to sue the Trump Administration if it had not ended the DACA program by September 2017, Anchia said that the lawsuit was “not only bad policy, it’s bad politics.” Anchia believes that instead of persecuting illegal immigrants, the U.S. policymakers should focus on repairing the immigration system as a whole: “Instead of wasting taxpayer funds to pick on these Americans without status, the Attorney General should join the bipartisan chorus calling on Congress to fix a broken immigration system that denies these kids their rightful place at the American table,” he said.

Helen Giddings

Helen Giddings graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. In 1989, she founded Multiplex Inc., a “specialty concessions company” for which she still serves as president. Giddings served 13 terms as a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives before retiring in 2017, and has been tapped as a potential candidate for the 2019 mayoral race.

In 2015, Giddings got a bill passed with Republican help that required better help for school police and resource officers. Additionally, she banned “lunch shaming” in schools: “Districts now must institute grace periods for students who don’t have money to pay for school lunches. Abbott signed the bill into law after Giddings stood up to the House Freedom Caucus, which resisted it.”

Jason Villalba

Jason Villalba is a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives from District 114 in Dallas County. He graduated from Baylor University, earned his JD from The University of Texas School of Law, and is currently a partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. Villalba has a reputation for angering conservative Republicans with his tendency to vote Democratic. His speeches and bills routinely reflect liberal values, and he has even called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. After he wrote, then removed, a controversial religious freedom amendment to the Texas Constitution, many Republican lawmakers in Texas all but begged someone to challenge him during the next election.

Texas Right to Life, a pro-life organization in Texas, put Villalba on their “2017 Disappointment List.” According to the organization, “The dishonorable list is reserved for those who have egregiously failed to protect the unborn, vulnerable, and disabled through votes, public statements, or other actions.” Apparently, although Villalba “campaigns as Pro-Life,” he “voted against a critical Pro-Life amendment to Senate Bill 8 in the regular session.”

In 2015, Villalba introduced an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would allow business owners to discriminate, using their religion to justify their actions. However, after a “coalition” of LGTBQ and liberal advocacy groups announced their opposition to the amendment, Villalba removed it just two days before the filing date, angering many conservatives across the board.

In July 2018, Villalba wrote an editorial for the Texas Tribune in which he called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. In it, he writes,

I was one of the only Republican elected officials in the country to plead with the American voters to abandon this charlatan prior to his election. For my transgressions, I was summarily unelected from the Texas Legislature. I have no regrets. I always do what I believe is right. That is not politically expedient, but it helps me sleep at night. But verily I say unto you today, if we do not stop this man now, today, over 500 days into his presidency, we will be equally culpable in what he has planned for our great nation.

Bobby Abtahi

Bobby Abtahi, a lawyer and current president of the Dallas Park Board, “clearly is exploring running for mayor,” according to the Dallas Observer. Abtahi attended the University of Texas at Austin before earning his JD at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law.

In 2013, Abtahi faced Philip Kingston in a city council runoff election for Dallas’ 14th District. During the election, some District 14 residents received robocalls from “anti-gay former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert last week in support of City Council candidate Bobby Abtahi.” Abtahi’s campaign said the call was “done on Leppert’s own initiative and Leppert has not endorsed Abtahi despite the robocall.” Abtahi lost the runoff election, which could be attributed-at least in part-to his financial supporters:

On Abtahi’s campaign contribution list that year, the names alone were enough to kill him – Ronald Steinhart, former chairman of Bank One Corp.’s Commercial Banking Group and a former chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council; John Scovell, longtime consigliere to oilman Ray Hunt and a former chairman of the Citizens Council; Erle Nye, former chairman and CEO of TXU Corp. and a board member of the Citizens Council.

Since he is a member of Dallas’ municipal government, Abtahi’s political party cannot be named with absolute certainty. However, The Dallas Morning News wrote in August 2017 that Abtahi and councilman Philip Kingston “represent the closest thing the nonpartisan council has to political parties: the business-focused establishment (Abtahi) and progressive insurgents (Kingston).”

Michael Hinojosa

Michael Hinojosa, a former Dallas superintendent, has been cited several times as a possible contender for the 2019 mayoral race. Hinojosa worked as chief of the Cobb County School District in Atlanta, Georgia from 2011 to 2014. He resigned from the post after drawing criticism “over big budget deficits and the district’s response to Atlanta’s crippling winter storm. But Hinojosa cited his family as the reason for his resignation, saying he was ready to return to his home in Dallas.” Hinojosa reportedly took a pay cut when he left his position as superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District to go work in Atlanta. However, he “also walked away with an estimated $200,000-a-year Texas pension check,” according to The Dallas Morning News. While at Cobb County, Hinojosa “earned a base salary of $237,000 and perks that exceed $28,000 annually, according to the Journal-Constitution.”

Mike Ablon

Michael Ablon, a well-known developer in the Dallas region, has reportedly been “considering a campaign.” Ablon received his Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Architecture degrees at the University of Texas at Austin, and earned his Master’s degree from Harvard University. His political affiliation is not known at this time.

Ablon is the founding partner of PegasusAblon, a “multidisciplinary developer and investor focused on the integration of emerging markets and evolving demographic trends.” In Dallas, he is perhaps best known for two projects. First, he led the redevelopment of the Dallas Design District, from “a warehouse/showroom district of the 1950’s-1970’s into a vibrant neighborhood with showrooms and galleries, unique restaurants and local retailers, and lofts and apartments while maintaining the history, vibe, and character of the district’s past.” Second, he is currently the Chairman of the Trinity River Corridor LGC, which focuses on the development of The Harold Simmons Park, a large central park in Dallas.

Peter Brodsky

Millionaire private-equity investor and mall developer Peter Brodsky is considering a run for the Dallas mayoralty in 2019, according to Dallas News. Brodsky, whom a Dallas News investigative reporter called a “45-year-old white guy who drinks San Pellegrino water with lime and spends free time battling his mother-in-law in online Scrabble,” might actually have a lot to offer. As Dallas News wrote, “It would be easy to dislike Brodsky, if he weren’t so likable.”

The Brooklyn-born, Yale-educated, Jewish and Democratic Brodsky jumped into Dallas politics by tackling two of the city’s most inglorious problems: sparse shopping in southern Dallas and the dangerous stray dog problem. Brodsky joined the Dallas Animal Commission to help alleviate the stray dog crisis that has left people bitten and fearful and purchased the Southwest Center Mall, the “only mall in the southern half of the city,” for about $13 million. Combining his cultivated business acumen and spirit of philanthropy, Brodsky envisions that the renamed Red Bird Mall redevelopment will strengthen southern Dallas’ shopping and grocery woes and contribute to its economic development. According to “well-known Black advertising executive” Sophia Johnson, “Don’t think [Brodksy] is the stereotypical white guy from North Dallas,” adding, “This guy is a different kind of guy.” Incumbent Dallas Mayor Mike Rawling also told Dallas News, “I just would like more Peter Brodskys in this city.” It’s worth noting that in June 2018, the Dallas City Council unanimously voted for a $22 million municipal investment in Brodsky’s Red Bird Mall project according to the Dallas Business Journal. That investment feeds into outgoing Mayor Rawling’s GrowSouth initiative to stimulate economic growth in southern Dallas.

Phillip Huffines

Former Dallas County Republican Party Chairman and current real estate developer Phillip Huffines is considering a run for the Dallas mayoralty in 2019 according to Dallas News. Huffines previously ran for Texas State Senate for the 8th District in 2018. but lost the primary to Angela Paxton with 45.65 percent of the votes to Paxton’s 54.35% according to Ballotpedia. The future of his mayoral ambitions might be in question if he continues to run ads like this 30 second clip and this nearly three and a half minute “masterpiece.”

Regina Montoya

Regina Montoya, a former Clinton Administration official, has been tapped as a potential candidate in the 2019 mayoral race. Montoya graduated from Wellesley College, where she is currently a Trustee Emerita, and earned her JD from Harvard Law School. She is currently General Counsel at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and would likely run as a Democrat.

In 1993, Montoya served the Clinton Administration as an Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 1998, President Clinton nominated her to serve as a U.S. Representative to the 53rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

She is Chair of the Board of the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF), a member of the Board of Directors of Girls Inc. (National Board), the Texas Book Festival, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the Harvard Club of Dallas, ChildCareGroup, and the SMU Tate Lecture Series, and she serves on the Texas Lyceum Advisory Council. She is also reportedly “writing a book about the importance of incorporating Latinos into the economic, political and social fabric of America.”

Photos courtesy of Dallas News

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