Real Politics

Feudal grudges and an imprisoned holy man in the Dallas mayoral race

Hicks calls that "a very stupid mistake."

"I'm a four-term councilperson from the highest-voting African-American council district in the city, and I never received a telephone call from him. I've been at the table. I am at the table. You don't need a go-between to talk to me."

Hicks didn't tell me who did call him for Dunning, merely that it was someone "who wanted to be a power broker."

Former Councilman Al Lipscomb still calls some shots in the mayor's race, house arrest notwithstanding.
Henry Bargas
Former Councilman Al Lipscomb still calls some shots in the mayor's race, house arrest notwithstanding.

Not Dunning.

On the other hand, candidate Laura Miller did call Hicks, herself.

"Laura Miller called me. Before Domingo got in the race, I was just about ready to go over there."

Hicks still considers Miller a viable choice for Southern Dallas. "It's very nice to know we have two strong candidates that would represent all of Dallas," he says.

Now please don't take this to mean Tom Dunning has no black support. He has substantial black support. County Commissioner John Wiley Price is already on the radio endorsing him in ads, and other well-known black leaders will follow in the weeks to come.

In fact, some of the bad wiring here may not be Dunning's fault. You could say just as easily that some people in the black community are being way too sensitive and defensive with a guy who isn't hostile, isn't a racist and could do them some good.

I don't know which side of that dispute is more right or wrong than the other. But I do know this: It's really remarkable how little day-to-day black-white familiarity has been built up during the Kirk years.

There was a certain wrinkle in the Ron Kirk phenomenon that may not have received its due. The establishment needed Kirk to control black Dallas, and Kirk needed the establishment to win white Dallas. But Kirk didn't need anybody in black Dallas.

He was this city's first black mayor. He was smart, good-looking and effective, with money in his pocket. He was a dream come true for the rank and file of black Dallas. When he went to black schools, children stretched their arms to touch him. When he wanted to, he could blow right by the traditional leadership of African-American Dallas like they weren't even standing there. Black leaders in Dallas had more to worry about from Ron Kirk than they ever did from any white man.

Ron Kirk's gone.

There's a lot of stuff that a lot of people went along with during the Kirk years that they have no intention of going along with now that he's out of the way. Those people want to be sure that the white power structure knows how they feel.

Tom Dunning is a decent guy and an honest man. He's learning how they feel.

But enough of all this depressing racial stuff. How about the real issue here? Why can't that Carol Reed get her ads right?

Reed, the political consultant to Dunning's campaign, had to pull down her first set of TV ads because the ads incorporated snippets of film that weren't authorized for political use. Rob Allyn, consultant to the Laura Miller campaign, was widely quoted deploring the use of unauthorized snippets in a campaign.

So Reed snips out the unauthorized stuff and snips in some other footage showing a Channel 4 cameraman shooting Dunning at a news conference.

Channel 4 calls. They claim it's unauthorized to use an image of their cameraperson in a political ad. So Reed pulls that one down, too, and snips in a different snippet showing city council member Dr. Elba Garcia, wife of candidate Domingo Garcia, smiling at Dunning during a news conference.

Last time I checked with Reed, Dr. Garcia had not called to complain that use of her image was also unauthorized. But she still could do that at any moment, and I have the phone number if she needs it.

Meanwhile, a source who is close to everything, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, deniability and invisibility, provided me with a 1998 story from The Dallas Morning News describing how Rob Allyn got in trouble for unauthorized use of a snippet of music in a radio ad for another political campaign. I called Allyn, who agreed that he had made such a mistake. Allyn was contrite and had a very long and intriguing story about his mistake, and I only regret that I lack the space here to repeat it.

Take it all together. The feudal history. The ancient grudges. The holy man under house arrest in the Wriggle Room. But especially the snipping and sniping.

This is almost like real city politics. Is Dallas getting cool or what?

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