Last Men Standing

Leppert and Oakley show that what you think about Dallas politics could be wrong

"I feel very strongly that the mayor has to use the bully pulpit to drive the issues that make a difference," he said. "Everything begins with education."

In contrast, Oakley talks in the dry prose of local government. He'll explain to you about how the latest bond program was divvied up and why and knows how long the runways are at Red Bird Airport. If you get him excited, he'll explain how leadership can emanate from council committees.

The odd thing about Leppert and Oakley is that their views on the scope of local government don't correspond with their party identifications. Leppert, the Republican in the field, believes that government can overcome entrenched realities to transform schools, neighborhoods and businesses even if he's typically short on specifics. Oakley has a more modest view of what City Hall can do for you. It can spur development in neglected parts of town, but otherwise, it can't make Dallas more like Austin.

"Make no mistake, as a city all we do is provide services," he says. "We treat your water. We pick up your trash. We provide public safety."

Neither Oakley nor Leppert have the type of rousing, grand message that draws people to the polls. But they know how to win over those who show up. Right now, that's all that counts.

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