City Hall

Apparent Upsets Galore as Challengers Remake the Dallas City Council

Campaign signs abound outside Reverchon Park in Oak Lawn.
Campaign signs abound outside Reverchon Park in Oak Lawn. Joe Pappalardo
It's hard to describe Saturday night's Dallas City Council runoff elections as anything but a repudiation of Dallas' political establishment. Three incumbents, all backed by For Our Community, the Super PAC run by Mike Rawlings' consultant Mari Woodlief, appear to have lost their seats on the council.

Rawlings explicitly endorsed two of the losing incumbents, Monica Alonzo in District 6 and Tiffinni Young in District 7 while remaining officially neutral in the District 8 race between Erik Wilson and Tennell Atkins.  

The Dallas County District Attorney's Office sequestered 698 mail-in ballots out of precaution stemming from the investigation into potential mail-in ballot fraud in West Dallas, so results in the three races won't be official until Sunday at the earliest. Still, it seems unlikely that any of the leaders at the end of the night Saturday, Omar Narvaez, Kevin Felder and Atkins, will see their advantages overturned.

District 6 — In hotly contested District 6 in West Dallas, Narvaez, a member of the Dallas County Schools board, holds a commanding lead over Alonzo, the mayor pro-tem. Out of 1,960 votes counted so far, 1,132 voters cast ballots for Narvaez while only 828 voted for Alonzo. The mayor pro-tem needs to win 324 out of the 342 sequestered ballots, about 95 percent, in order to eke out a one-vote victory. That isn't happening.

After losing to Alonzo, 41-29, in the first round of voting, Narvaez came on strong in the monthlong run-up to the runoff, gaining positive press by helping negotiate a deal between renters in West Dallas and Khraish Khraish, their landlord, that could keep dozens of tenants in their homes as buyers rather than renters. The tenants previously faced eviction because Khraish said he could not afford to keep the homes in compliance with a new city ordinance, and not doing so would've cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Alonzo stayed largely silent on the issue while Narvaez put himself at its front and center.

On Saturday afternoon, Narvaez crystallized his case against Alonzo.

"I'm ready to fight the corruption and get it stopped at City Hall and to stop the wasteful use of our tax dollars on boondoggle projects," Narvaez said. "For far too long, District 6 has been underrepresented; it is time for thoughtful and intelligent leadership at City Hall."

District 7 — In District 7, the final vote count Saturday night saw perennial candidate Felder leading incumbent Young, 1,215 votes to 1,046, with 291 uncounted mail-in ballots outstanding. In order to beat Felder, Young needs to win 231 of those 291 votes, or about 79 percent. Given that Felder beat Young in mail-in balloting during the first round of voting despite losing overall, a Young comeback seems unlikely.

Young's ouster from the council can be placed squarely on her decision to support Rawlings' effort to hand Fair Park over to a private foundation led by former Hunt Oil CEO Walt Humann. For her troubles, Young got the mayor's endorsement and a raft of advertising help from For Our Community, but that wasn't enough to get her past the post against Felder, who lost City Council races in 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2015.

District 8 — Atkins appears headed back to the City Council after being benched for two years because of term limits. With 65 mail-in ballots pending, Atkins leads Wilson, 966-919. Wilson needs to win 57 of the 65 sequestered votes, about 87 percent, to overtake Atkins. Again, that's not going happen.

To beat Wilson, Atkins successfully leveraged his personal wealth, contributing more than $30,000 to his campaign, and overcame Wilson's alliance with For Our Community and Rawlings. During the last couple of days of the campaign, Atkins mocked Wilson, posting a video he said proved the mayor told Wilson how to vote on a contentious zoning approval for a charter a school and sharing a poster on Facebook touting the "shadowy super PAC" aiding Wilson's campaign.  Dallas ISD District 2 — In the lone Dallas ISD board runoff, Dustin Marshall, the incumbent, defeated his challenger, Lori Kirkpatrick, by 32 points. Kirkpatrick, with help from several members of the Dallas City Council, finished with more votes than Marshall in the first round of voting but lost the runoff despite similar voter turnout.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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