By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
But another test for Walenta could arrive before the general election contest: a heated GOP primary. It may hinge on neighborhood rivalry over whether Park Cities Republican primary voters will vote for Dallasite candidates and vice versa. Dan Branch, a Highland Park real estate attorney who chaired President Bush's two gubernatorial campaigns in Dallas County, is mulling a run for the same seat.
Branch, 43, who ran for Congress in 1991, listed education, transportation, urban growth and pollution as his top concerns and cited support from GOP activists, downtown business interests and community groups. "I've been surprised by the interest, and I'm weighing whether it makes sense," he says. "I've got five kids and a law practice."
Meanwhile, Ehrhardt's predicament tops a list of bad news for Dallas Democrats. Eight Republicans and eight Democrats currently represent Dallas County in the state house, but redistricting may shift that ratio to 10 and six. State Representatives Terri Hodge and Dale Tillery, both Democratic incumbents, must face off against one another in a redrawn District 100. And State Senator David Cain, who lives in East Dallas, has been cut out of Senate District 2, which stretches from eastern Dallas County to Tyler (he may move eastward to stay in the district). "It's unsettling," says Russ Pate, a Democratic activist who lives in Lower Greenville, "to have two officials wiped out by redistricting."
Ehrhardt criticizes GOP mapmakers for splitting the Swiss Avenue historic district into two districts and thinks minorities in the new District 108 have a federal case because they can vote as a bloc and still not influence the election's outcome--a far cry from their clout in Ehrhardt's old territory. Howell of Dallas Democrats isn't sure disaffected Ehrhardt backers have a voting rights case, but he thinks contesting boundaries of predominantly minority districts elsewhere will consequently alter 108's lines. (Republicans say the new lines protect minority representation and are legally defensible.)
Successful court challenge or not, Ehrhardt is enthusiastic about running for a fifth term. She has strong ties to the Highland Park area; a former resident, she and her husband, Jack, met at Highland Park High, where he was captain of the football team and she was active in student organizations. She believes her pro-choice, pro-gay rights credentials will appeal to upscale GOP voters who are "not reactionary." "It will take Republican votes to get me elected," she says, "and I have every intention of winning those votes."