Following Leppert's blueprint, Rawlings named former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach as his campaign chair and hired Mari Woodlief of Allyn Media as his consultant. He's also counting on consultants Kathy Nealy and Willis Johnson and support from Dr. Frederick Haynes, pastor of one of the city's black megachurches, to mine valuable votes in southern Dallas.

Leppert's former deputy chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, also works on his campaign, and Rawlings has nabbed endorsements from dozens of Leppert supporters and business leaders, such as T. Boone Pickens and former mayoral candidate Tom Dunning. (Dunning preceded Rawlings as homeless czar and has also chaired the Citizens Council.)

Also stolen from Leppert's playbook: an ad blitz of TV commercials and pricey mailers aimed at building name ID and selling a platform that includes forming education task forces, even though the mayor has no control over the Dallas Independent School District.

Council member Ron Natinsky is the race's insider, serving as right-hand man to former Mayor Tom Leppert.
Mark Graham
Council member Ron Natinsky is the race's insider, serving as right-hand man to former Mayor Tom Leppert.
Real estate consultant Edward Okpa is running for mayor for a third time. "I can't say I'm gonna win it, but I feel like I'm gonna win it," he says.
Mark Graham
Real estate consultant Edward Okpa is running for mayor for a third time. "I can't say I'm gonna win it, but I feel like I'm gonna win it," he says.

There is, however, a significant distinction between the two: Leppert's a Republican and Rawlings is a Democrat.

Rawlings refuses to admit as much or discuss his contributions and voting record—the mayoral race is nonpartisan—but they paint a clear picture of a bleeding-heart liberal. More than 88 percent of the nearly $85,000 he has donated since 1992 went to Democratic campaigns, including $32,950 given directly to federal Democratic committees. He also contributed to candidates such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Al Franken. (To be fair, he gave to George W. Bush and John McCain as well, but those donations are the exception.)

"I really feel strongly that we need to keep partisanship out of city politics," he says. "It is destructive, and we need to pull the city together."

Rawlings has created a wedge between himself and former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, claiming the private sector brings the best ideas to the table while pointing out that Kunkle has spent his entire career in the public sector. The two candidates have accounted for most of the campaign's sporadic fireworks, as Kunkle criticized Rawlings' home in the affluent neighborhood of Preston Hollow (a comment he later apologized for), which is on the tax rolls for $2.8 million. He also joked at a forum about receiving a pizza late, an obvious reference to Rawlings' tenure as Pizza Hut's CEO.

The public- versus private-sector battle between Rawlings and Kunkle could pave the way for Ron Natinsky, who's represented by top political consultant Carol Reed, architect of five successful mayoral campaigns, and has experience as an entrepreneur and city council member. Natinsky, along with Edward Okpa—a lesser-known candidate who claims Governor Rick Perry calls him his "brother from another mother"—identify themselves as Republicans, which could translate to votes in North Dallas, where they both live.

Although he has voted in two Democratic primaries and no Republican primaries, Kunkle professes to be an independent. He hired Republican consultant C.P. Henry as his campaign manager and has aligned himself with two Republican former council members—Mitchell Rasansky and Donna Blumer—and two prominent Democrats.

Former Democratic state Representative Steve Wolens serves as Kunkle's campaign treasurer, and Wolens and his wife, Laura Miller, have hosted fundraisers for Kunkle and offered him advice on how to be a better candidate. Miller—who appointed Rawlings as homeless czar, praised Kunkle at his retirement press conference and served two years on the council with Natinsky—declined an interview request. Kunkle, on the other hand, is quick to distance himself from the polarizing Miller, who has yet to make an official endorsement.

"Her personality and style are probably 180 degrees different from mine," he says.

Calling him charismatically challenged, socially awkward, a public-policy wonk and a flat-out geek might seem harsh, but that's how David Kunkle describes himself. It's easy to see why. He has a voice as inspiring as political commentator Ben Stein's, possesses the social acumen of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, brags about his intimate knowledge of city government and proudly drives around his Lower Greenville neighborhood on a lime-green Vespa scooter.

He even has the nerdy look—short in stature with glasses and spiked hair—and he carries around a book, Good to Great, as a prop. (The best-selling leadership book was made into a documentary featuring Kunkle.) Hardly what you'd expect from a former Dallas police chief, much less a mayoral candidate.

Shortly after Kunkle was named the city's top cop in June 2004, Sarah Dodd, who was working as a City Hall reporter for KTVT-Channel 11 and would later become his wife, took him to lunch in an attempt to teach him to speak in sound bites instead of droning on. Kunkle rebuffed the offer and told Dodd: "For reasons I don't understand, people have liked me and believed in me, so I don't want to change."

The 60-year-old avid marathon runner has a son from his first marriage who's 36—the same age as Dodd—and lives in Fort Worth. Kunkle's relationship with Dodd, who resigned from her TV gig and registered as a City Hall lobbyist 10 days after her husband's retirement, became the subject of media exposés, including an Observer article ("Awkward," September 28, 2006) in which Kunkle admitted to dating Dodd before the ink was dry on his divorce with his fourth wife, Kris Ankersen, who he'd married just two years earlier. Shortly before marrying Ankersen, Kunkle told The Dallas Morning News he was "frankly embarrassed" about his marital history.

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20 comments
Ann Maxwell
Ann Maxwell

Can you tell me (since they won't) how the top candidates voted for President? This is very important to me!!

Ann Maxwell
Ann Maxwell

Can you tell me (since they won"t) how the top candidates voted for President?

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

At first Nantinsky was the Citizen Council candidate. Next Rawlin is the citizen council candidate. Why don't you ever refer to Kunkle as Laura Miller's candidate? We know he is but since he is also the observers' candidate, you try not to do anything which might cause him problems.

Guest
Guest

I'm surprised with Dallas:

We gave the police force a reduction in pay.. We laid off teachers.. We are in a budget crises..

YET - we have unnecessary building projects going on right now that make NO SENSE financially - for example - the homeless parks that we are building across 75.. in downtown.. the bridge to nowhere. the trolley turnaround in Uptown.. the convention center hotel..

Just makes NO SENSE.. Dallas has a lot of problems..

One thing I liked this weekend about Southlake and Fort Worth - they had a very successful turnout at the art festival.. they wanted people.. lots of people..

Did they charge for parking? NO - free parking.. free event.. lots of people.. lots of people throwing money at all the businesses.. lots of tax revenue

Dallas - what do they do - overcharge for parking.. for any event .. and under deliver.. and they continue to with every new project: Opera House - $20 to $50 parking.. $100 to $500 ticket.. Mavericks.. Hockey.. Same thing.. there is no draw for tourists.. there is high line clothing stores and high prices food places.. NOTHING to bring in tourists and people who spend money..

YET we have a budget crises.. because we're mismanaging our funds and spending it on things that don't matter.. things that won't bring in tourists..

Dallas Cowboy Stadium.. oh the list goes on and on and on..

Darrylrs
Darrylrs

Five marriages and all, Kunkle is the only one of the bunch who will look out for the middle class. All in all, a boring selection. Can we just write in Robert Wilonksy?

Pdfreeman69
Pdfreeman69

Why is it when a Republican incumbent leaves office, the next guy comes into a $hit$torm?

samplerayt
samplerayt

Well, it'll be just like every other time. Property tax increases will be proposed and met with great consternation. If that doesn't get approved, then a property tax rate INCREASE will occur. A good percentage of folks will be forced to move to the suburbs because they can't afford the RENT Dallas charges for land and dwellings. Meanwhile, the over-the-top grandiose projects will continue only to be followed by more over-the-top grandiose projects, most of them simply stupid. To them, it's better to drive on ruined roadways to their latest 'Taj Mahal' than to have no 'Taj Mahal.' Each one leaves some soft of very expensive marker that soothes their ego. For those that live here, their only accomplishment is ever oppressive property taxes. It won't matter whomever wins as most of us lose.

samplerayt
samplerayt

Well, it'll be just like every other time. Property tax increases will be proposed and met with great consternation. If that doesn't get approved, then a property tax rate INCREASE will occur. A good percentage of folks will be forced to move to the suburbs because they can't afford the RENT Dallas charges for land and dwellings. Meanwhile, the over-the-top grandiose projects will continue only to be followed by more over-the-top grandiose projects, most of them simply stupid. To them, it's better to drive on ruined roadways to their latest 'Taj Mahal' than to have no 'Taj Mahal.' Each one leaves some soft of very expensive marker that soothes their ego. For those that live here, their only accomplishment is ever oppressive property taxes. It won't matter whomever wins as most of us lose.

Noemail
Noemail

Problem is that our current mayor is unable to add and subtract, and completely clueless regarding public policy and his domestic disturbance scandal

BNJB33
BNJB33

VOTE DAVID KUNKLE

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Natinsky--“He represents himself as a fiscal conservative, but he backed tax increases in 2005 and 2007 and was busted in October 2008 by The Dallas Morning News for spending $12,000 in taxpayer funds for thousands of plastic pizza cutters, letter openers, dish-scrubbing brushes and other trinkets bearing his name. He didn't see anything wrong with it then and doesn't now either.”-----that statement reminds me of the southern sector and the no bid Love Field Contract issue. Like Natinsky the southern sector too does not see any problem with their position on that issue of no bid contracts.

However I must point out too that the claim that Natinsky has “Republican Values” too is ludicrous in that he just can’t control himself when it comes to tax dollars-he can squander them like a pro too. As to Natinisky’s claim about being against taxes I just can’t get the image out of my head of all the council members sitting behind closed doors figuring out how they were going to raise taxes with out being accountable “you guys in the southern sector should come out in favor of raising taxes while us northern sector will come out opposed (and save our political skins with our constituencies) and we can go on a spending spree after we fund our budget.” And look at the spending they have embraced after a record tax increase and property value increases by the DCAD. No control what so ever in restraint on spending or prioritizing projects.

Oh yes lets not forget about the tax on Atmos pipe lines that was passed on to gas customers to fund the libraries and parks for 2010. A stealth tax is still a tax be it a fee or a valuation increase on property or increase on tax rate.

mpound
mpound

It looks like either Kunkle's head was photoshopped on to Rawlings body or vice-versa. Mike looks more commanding in his suit and purple tie than David does in his, no?

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

This might just be the most un-biased story I've ever seen the Dallas Observer put out. THANKS!!!

Jkwaghorne
Jkwaghorne

It's a shame to see history distorted by wealth and power. The Bridge was fought for and won by advocates on the ground and former Mayor Laura Miller was dragged tooth and nail to the table as were a majority on the council. (Dallas being ranked as the 6th meanest city in America also helped). It's sad how the eggs benedict always get the credit.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Queen Mary makes the decisions at city hall. The mayor merely carries her robe as do the others. Until she leaves, there is no great changes at Dallas City Hall.

Bung
Bung

Or Mike Moncrief.

md
md

Why is it when a Democrat incumbent leaves office, everything is rosy?

Oh, that's right, it's not.

Big Tex
Big Tex

Before you start crediting KNUCKLE with having the undying devotion of his rank-and-file "men-in-blue", why don't you poll heads of the different DPD organizations.Have you seen any of them endorse KNUCKLE as a candidate? NO!Besides, the idiot has stated that he would initiate Section 8 housing in North Dallas"because those ND rich people don't what it's like to struggle".Why not just make the idiot Mayor Pro-Tem the permanent Mayor of Dallas?He's a minority version of KNUCKLE....besides you could save the cost of inaugeration.

Mark Anthony Dallas
Mark Anthony Dallas

Kunkle was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police Dallas and the Latino Peace Officers. They liked being treated with respect, as opposed to the DPA which would prefer to tell (any) Chief how to do his job.

 
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