By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
On Sunday afternoon, as the Cowboys are showing the Eagles a good time across town, a caravan speeds down Ross Avenue, toward Laura Miller's party in Oak Cliff. The councilwoman and erstwhile Dallas Observer columnist is not scheduled to announce her mayoral candidacy for two hours yet, but the caravan's organizer and vanguard, Avi Adelman, wants to get a good spot up front.
Adelman is a Lower Greenville gadfly who runs an outfit known as the Barking Dogs. Its objectives include the enforcement of codes and laws, in particular those that prohibit bar-goers from urinating in his yard. He is a citizen less concerned with theoretical bridges over the troubled Trinity River than he is with extant potholes on his own street. He is the prototype of a Miller voter. Adelman explained his position back at the caravan's staging area, the parking lot of a Whole Foods Market. "The mayor has to pay attention to the big things, sure," he said. "But Laura will focus on the streets and codes. This is a populist movement." Then he and his 9-year-old daughter hopped in his gold Ford Ranger XLT (vanity plate: THE DOG).
Despite e-mail appeals from Adelman for others to join him, the entire caravan includes, from head to tail, in this exact order: Adelman, a guy named Mike and a reporter. Nonetheless, the populist movement has difficulty following Adelman. He blows through no fewer than four yellow lights before he reaches downtown. In Oak Cliff, he makes a wrong turn, perhaps distracted by several oversized Tom Dunning yard signs. Dunning, who resigned as chairman of the D/FW airport board to enter the contest, is Miller's only real opposition in the race, to be decided January 19. He was apparently unaware of a city code that prohibits campaign yard signs until 60 days prior to an election, a window that won't open--legally, that is, if you comply with the code--until Tuesday. In any case, Adelman arrives at Stevens Park, site of Miller's speech, 90 minutes early. A few people are still setting up, and he has his pick of good spots up front.
At length and despite (or because of) the Cowboys game, maybe 300 souls gather. An unofficial estimate puts the number of black people present at five, one of whom is operating a television camera. Dogs and children are in abundance. Some of the latter swing on a set a few feet from the sign-in table, their tiny feet cutting arcs through the air, giving the adults hell as they navigate the area. And, oddly, another mayoral candidate is in the house. The not altogether spry Billy Jack Ludwig shows up looking like the dearly departed Desmond Llewelyn's elder brother. Over the years, Ludwig has made six unsuccessful bids for mayor, spending several hundred dollars in the process, much of it on his trademark "Billy Jack Ludwig for Mayor" emery boards.
A quarter till 3, the appointed hour, and Miller is still nowhere to be seen. But her husband is. Democratic state Representative Steve Wolens, wearing dark sunglasses, makes his rounds. "We're proud of your wife," someone tells him. "It's exciting," he says. "There's kind of a buzz."
The reporter has been instructed to ask Wolens about earlier comments of his. Wolens said that if Miller ran for mayor, she would run as a single mother. The reporter was also told, "Keep in mind that Wolens may slap you when you ask" (presumably because Miller has a rather complicated relationship with her former employer, refusing to talk to several still in its employ). So the reporter girds himself and approaches Wolens. He feeds the representative his earlier quote concerning single motherhood and asks, "Did you mean you were going to commit suicide or divorce her?"
Wolens smiles and hits him with: "My wife did in the family what she did in the City Council. She lobbied us over a period of two to three months. And we started having votes almost nightly at the table. My wife went for consensus, and not only did she get a consensus from the family, but she got a unanimous vote out of us about five nights ago."
The reporter is relieved to have avoided injury but wonders about the legitimacy of this alleged voting. He has, in fact, read newspaper accounts of a Miller household ritual that involves nightly debates, complete with Magic Markers and a flip chart for the purpose of vote tallying. This strikes the reporter as hokum. So he tracks down Alex, 11, Miller's oldest child. She is wearing a sweatshirt with the word "FLIRT" on it (which her mother would later turn inside out for a carefully orchestrated family photo op). Alex confirms the voting story. She was the only other original "run" vote (besides her mother's) and says she voted her conscience, knowing that whatever made her mom happy would be good for the family. But there's more.
"There are going to be a lot of social events," Alex says. "I'll have a lot of fun, and I can invite all my friends for free. My mom, like, barely let's me go and hang out and do stuff like that at my house, and I think that if there are going to be more social events, then I'll be able to bring friends over to go to those. So that's cool to me." Alex says these considerations generated 20 percent of her "run" vote.