It's easy to see why The Dallas Morning News rarely mentions his name—which, by the way, doesn't bother Okpa—or why he hasn't been invited to a handful of debates. His 429 votes in '07 represented a significant drop-off from his poor showing four years earlier, when his 1,999 votes accounted for less than 3 percent of the turnout.

Okpa, a 51-year-old Nigerian immigrant who moved to Dallas in 1985, also hasn't exactly been the most dogged candidate. His schedule is clogged with meetings related to the real estate business he started, The Okpa Co., causing him to skip out on some of the forums he's been asked to attend. It also makes him 40 minutes late arriving for an interview, which had been rescheduled four days earlier because of another last-minute conflict.

Unapologetic for his tardiness, Okpa, sans his trademark bowtie, explains in a thick accent why this time will be different. He says he's received more exposure, is more confident about conveying his message and is known by more people. "I can't say I'm gonna win it, but I feel like I'm gonna win it."

Mike Rawlings' pedigree is corporate America. But the mayoral hopeful was instrumental in making Dallas' homeless center, The Bridge, a success.
Mark Graham
Mike Rawlings' pedigree is corporate America. But the mayoral hopeful was instrumental in making Dallas' homeless center, The Bridge, a success.
Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle has positioned himself as the outsider. He is widely credited with restoring public confidence in the DPD.
Mark Graham
Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle has positioned himself as the outsider. He is widely credited with restoring public confidence in the DPD.

Despite the $60,000 salary that comes with being mayor, Okpa plans to continue working as a real estate broker and international trade consultant if he's elected, stressing he'll avoid signing contracts with the city of Dallas. Leppert not only stopped his work in the private sector before becoming mayor, but he also donated his salary to educational programs. Okpa, on the other hand, seems to view being mayor as a part-time job.

He still drives the BMW he bought in 1987, which has nearly 400,000 miles on it, and wears the same suits he wore 20 years ago. "My attitude toward money is different," Okpa explains.

Although he talks generically about "addressing structural deficiencies" and "consolidation" to balance the budget, he does offer one suggestion: Refinance the city's bonds at a lower rate. Like the other candidates, he's reluctant to discuss any cuts, saying only, "We have to look at the way we spend our money."

Mike Rawlings also stumbled upon the American dream in Dallas. It just turns out he didn't have to travel nearly as far as Okpa did.

Stocky and standing just shy of 6 feet 4 inches tall, Rawlings looks every bit the former linebacker he was at Boston College.

A large painting by his daughter hangs on the wall of his office at CIC Partners, a private equity firm where Rawlings serves as managing partner and CEO of Legends Hospitality Management. Legends provides food and beverage services at sports venues such as Cowboys Stadium and Yankee Stadium. If Rawlings wins, he's arranged to step down from both positions at CIC.

Sitting comfortably in a black leather chair, Rawlings claims the mayoral race isn't about personality—a statement he's repeated at several campaign stops. "It's what you bring to the party and the experience base you've got," he says.

Rawlings' path to private-sector superstardom began in Borger, a small Texas city about 50 miles northeast of Amarillo. After stops in Kansas City and Syracuse, he accepted a football scholarship to Boston College. At just 19, he married his first wife, who later gave birth to their daughter Michelle. Rawlings grew tired of working as a doorman and valet, prompting his move to Dallas after landing a job at WFAA radio as a reporter.

The media world didn't turn out to be his calling—he was fired 18 months later—but Rawlings shrugged off that "humbling" experience and used his writing skills to become an account executive at a small ad agency called Mitchell and Manning that has since disappeared. That led to a job at advertising giant TracyLocke in 1979, where he began working his way up the corporate ladder, eventually serving as its CEO until he left in 1996.

Rawlings, 56, would meet his second wife, Micki, at TracyLocke. They have a son, Gunnar, who enrolled at his father's alma mater—Boston College—after graduating from Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, where Rawlings serves as a director. He would join Pizza Hut as its president and chief concept officer in 1997, increasing profits and reestablishing its position as the country's top pizza chain until his departure in 2003.

The following year, Rawlings became a full-time partner at CIC Partners, a spin-off of Cardinal Investment Co. Cardinal had at one time invested in Ace Cash Express, which provides check cashing and payday loans. Several council members and state legislators have pushed for restrictions on companies like Ace, which they believe prey on lower-income families. While Rawlings served on Ace's board starting in 2000, he points out that he never invested any of his own money in the company and sold the shares he received as a director in 2006.

Rawlings entered the public sector in September 2005 when former Mayor Miller named him as the city's homeless czar, a position that no longer exists. One year later, Miller appointed him to a two-year term as chair of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. Rawlings left his position as homeless czar when Leppert nominated him as president of the Park and Recreation Board in August 2010.

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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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