What to Watch for Ahead of Saturday's Dallas City Council Runoffs
Campaign season is upon us.
And then there were three. Following the first round of voting May 6, 11 of Dallas' 14 City Council races ended with one candidate getting more than 50 percent of the vote and, in doing so, avoiding a runoff. But the three races that remain on the board are the council's most interesting this election cycle.
With two days of early voting left before Saturday's Election Day, let's take a look at each of the three races, ranked from most likely to least likely upset.
District 8 — Wilson vs. Atkins (upset chance: 50 percent)
The race between Erik Wilson and Tennell Atkins features one of the weirdest subplots of the election: the role that another Eric, Eric Williams, played in the first round of balloting. Wilson believes that the similarity in his and Williams' names, combined with Williams first position on the ballot, led to his trailing Atkins 42 percent to 37 percent in the first round of voting.
In the runoff, Wilson won't have to deal with any confusion. He's well funded, too, after receiving nearly $26,000 in contributions between April 27 and May 31, the period covered in the latest round of campaign finance reports released late Friday. That includes five $1,000 maximum donations from members of the Hunt Oil clan and $2,500 from the Dallas Citizens Council's political action committee. Add in the indirect support of For Our Community, the PAC led by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' political consultant, Mari Woodlief, and Wilson has all the resources he needs to compete with Atkins.
Atkins outspent Wilson, $41,000 to $20,000, during the period covered by the last campaign finance report. He's done so with a lot of his own money and has loaned more than $30,000 to his campaign. He also received a little help from District 1 City Council member Scott Griggs, who gave Atkins $1,000 from his campaign fund May 25.
Griggs' donation is worth nothing because during Atkins' last run on the City Council, he was not a member of the Griggs- and Philip Kingston-led coalition that frequently opposes the mayor. Atkins has also pointed to For Our Community's and the Dallas Citizens Council's support of Wilson as proof that the establishment has the incumbent's ear, in an attempt to position himself as an outsider despite having already served eight years on the council.
City Council candidate Omar Narvaez (center) said last week that City Hall had been no help in the battle to protect the homes of West Dallas tenants.
District 6 — Alonzo vs. Narvaez (upset chance: 40 percent)
Omar Narvaez's chances to unseat Monica Alonzo got a big boost in May when he received much of the credit for brokering a deal between the Khraish family and West Dallas renters that is set to allow many tenants threatened with eviction to purchase their homes from the rental property owners. District 6 residents have also clashed multiple times with Alonzo over the last couple of years, stinging her for supporting moving a cement plant to within a mile of a middle school in her district and for her vote against the expansion of a popular District 6 charter school.
Despite the unpopular vote and Narvaez's recent visibility, Alonzo still has several powerful forces behind her re-election bid. She has the support of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who's attempted to give her some of the credit for the Khraish deal, the power of the incumbency and, most importantly, a huge pile of cash to throw at Narvaez as the raise comes down the home stretch.
While Narvaez had a respectable $33,000 in the bank as of his Friday campaign finance report, Alonzo is sitting on an incredible $126,000. In an election in which the winning candidate could end up totaling about 800 votes, Alonzo's war chest per vote is staggering.
Then there's the ongoing voter fraud investigation in the West Dallas district. On Friday, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office issued the first warrant stemming from its search for the elusive Jose Rodriguez, the nom de guerre of a man believed to have scammed senior citizens out of ballots and ballot applications during the first round of voting. While investigators have connected Miguel Hernandez to at least one stolen ballot, they are still looking for potential co-conspirators as the runoff approaches.
Both campaigns have denied any connection to Rodriguez or Hernandez, placing blame for any mail-in ballot chicanery on the other team. While it seems unlikely that the investigation will provide any big news before Saturday, future developments could hang a dark cloud over Alonzo or Narvaez.
District 7 — Young vs. Felder (Upset Chance: 15 percent)
While Tiffinni Young's support of the mayor's plan to turn Fair Park over to Walt Humann's Fair Park Foundation has riled some in her southeast Dallas district, Kevin Felder seems to lack the resources or a signature achievement necessary to help topple an incumbent. Dallas' political and business establishment supports Young, leaving her with nearly $41,000 to use as she sees fit down the electoral stretch. Felder has less than $7,300 in the bank, according to his Friday finance report, and his most notable contributions are $1,000 each from the two rental property owners tied to the eviction crisis in District 6. While Young struggled in a five-candidate first round field, it's hard to see Felder giving her much of a run when the returns come in Saturday.
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