The Kirk connection

How Dallas' new mayor pulled it off

During the last few weeks of the campaign, the black ministers, in a united effort, urged their congregations from the pulpit to let their voices be heard with a vote--a plea that resulted in dozens of after-church Sunday caravans to absentee polling places. Says Kirk: "It was just good ol'-fashioned grassroots politics."

Looking back, though, there was something else. Perhaps for the first time in a Dallas mayor's race, a candidate made a personal, heartfelt connection with the citizens. Whether it was white people stopping Kirk at Larry's Shoes or a visit to NorthPark Mall, where a thirtysomething couple told him he was the first mayoral candidate they'd ever agreed on, or black people embracing him like a long-lost child.

At one "Meet Ron Kirk" gathering in South Dallas in mid-campaign, a 94-year-old black woman approached Kirk tentatively when the crowd began dispersing for the evening. Grabbing Kirk by the arm, she hugged him awkwardly, then explained that she was blind. "You have to forgive me," she told him, raising her hands to touch his face, "but I never thought I would live to see the day when we would elect a black man mayor of the city of Dallas."

When Kirk left the meeting a few minutes later, filled with emotion, he called his wife from the car, unable to wait until he got home. He had a story to tell her.

About why he was running for mayor.

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