Dallas' Political Designing Woman
After all these years, Carol Reed can still own a room. Election night in Dallas comes on a warm Tuesday in November and Reed avidly mingles with businessmen, City Hall leaders and political insiders in a side hall of a music club a few blocks south of a glittering skyline. Tonight, the 60-year-old woman who keeps her hair bright and blond is wearing a black and white tweed Armani short skirt and a matching V-neck sweater. Reed always dresses stylishly when she knows she'll end up on television.
If only she could find a moment alone to even think about such things. Reed has just helped lead her side to another electoral triumph, blunting a furious grassroots campaign that threatened to upend the plans her powerful friends had for a toll road along the Trinity River. Now they were coming to show their gratitude. A city council member talks to Reed while she's on the phone and offers to buy her a glass of wine. The mayor pulls her in for a private conversation not long after an ex-mayor tells her a joke. A wealthy executive ambles over and gives Reed a long hug as she gives an interview to a reporter.
Wearing a blue blazer and no tie, Mayor Tom Leppert stands at the lectern. He gives a ho-hum victory speech and appears more relieved than joyous. To many of the people in the room, the new mayor, selected just five months earlier, is still a stranger. That's hardly true of Reed, who stands 10 or so feet away from Leppert and claps heartily. Though Reed is happy with the results, the truth is that she was never really worried. She knew all along she'd win.
For more than 20 years, Reed has been a vaunted campaign manager if not a veritable celebrity in local political circles. Although she may be unfamiliar to most people in Dallas, Reed is the behind-the-scenes architect of the establishment, and her designs have sketched out the most important electoral triumphs in the city's recent history. She has helped elect three mayors, served as the chief fund-raiser for a fourth and successfully pushed public financing for the American Airlines Center and the original Trinity River project before voters in the '90s. She's also helped pass billion-dollar-plus bond packages for the city and the school district.
While her career is not short of triumphs, 2007 may have been her best year yet. In addition to helping elect Leppert mayor—while taking home $30,000 a month for her services—Reed warded off city council member Angela Hunt's initiative to kill the Trinity River toll road. Reed was also tapped this year to be the chief Texas fund-raiser for GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. That's a rather prominent post considering how heavily Republicans rely on Texas money.
Today, nearly 40 years after she stumbled into the fringes of a statewide election on a whim, Reed can choose just about any job in politics she wants. For the solidly entrenched business community, which has long enjoyed the final say in how Dallas is run, Reed is their go-to consultant. While some may wonder if Reed merely happened into a fortuitous relationship with the most lavish check writers in town, owing her success more to their bank accounts than her talents, the flip side of that argument is more accurate: The businessmen of Dallas enlist Reed because they know she's the best chance they have to stay in control.
"She has the respect and the ear of every major political leader in this city and every business leader in this city," says former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. "And she did that on her own."
People like to think of political consultants as a slippery lot who whisper brilliant strategies in a candidate's ear, leading the way to a magical election. The realities are far more mundane and rigorous, especially in a campaign run by Reed. She has a corporate approach, which is appropriate considering her business-minded constituency.
"I'm the CEO," is how Reed describes her role in a campaign. "The candidate is the product."
The first thing Reed will do is test that product through targeted and sophisticated polling and come up with a winning message. Let's say, for example, Reed's candidate says that his priorities are reducing crime, fostering economic development in southern Dallas and building a landing pad for alien spaceships in downtown. Reed's Washington-based pollster will see how that plays in different parts of the city.
Then Reed will look at which parts of the candidate's platform resonate with voters and which ones don't. For the themes that flounder, Reed will try to find a way to cast them in a vaguer light like, say, pitching the candidate's alien pad idea as a creative way to boost tourism.
Perhaps the most important information gleaned from the poll is whether the candidate's themes, if not the candidate himself, are received well by likely voters. If they're not, the campaign works on its candidate's message.
In the message phase, Reed often partners with Allyn & Co., the political consulting firm that has never been on the losing side of a Dallas mayor's race. When you put Reed and Allyn on the same side, they're virtually unstoppable. (And very high-priced. During the Leppert campaign, Reed and Allyn & Co. charged $30,000 and $20,000 a month respectively for their services.)
Allyn & Co. are often heavily involved in the polling, typically writing a good chunk of the script. Their staff will also get to know the candidate. In the most recent mayor's race, Mari Woodlief, the firm's chief executive officer, spent hours with Leppert just listening to his life story. From there, her company decided to introduce Leppert in a television commercial as a self-made man who worked as a janitor when he was a teenager to help his single mom.
Leppert's humble roots juxtaposed with his record as a successful and progressive CEO is how Reed and Allyn peddled their candidate. It helped that Leppert's rather generic priorities of crime, economic development and education naturally tested well. The campaign then developed a cogent theme of a modest but successful executive who was well-equipped to confront the biggest issues that Dallas faces. Leppert and his campaign hit on this simple theme relentlessly, paying almost no attention to the rest of the crowded field.
"The common misconception about campaigns is that they're about having a new idea every day," says consultant Rob Allyn. "In reality it's about having the right idea from the start and executing it every day."
Reed will monitor how that message is playing nearly every day too. She uses the same Washington, D.C., pollster for nearly all of her campaigns. He'll give Reed valuable data that will influence how she marshals her resources in the home stretch.
"I know exactly where I am and where my base is," she says of her polling data. "I know where I'm strong, and I know where I'm weak, and I know who's in those strong areas. If they're Republicans or Democrats, if they're black, white or Hispanic—if they have a college degree and what their intensity is on the candidates."
At the risk of exhausting Reed's corporate analogy, her campaigns really operate like big, diverse businesses, putting a premium on organizational skills over tactical ones. In the Leppert mayoral bid, Reed had to oversee the communications consultant (Allyn & Co.) and a grassroots consultant, who was in charge of volunteers, yard signs and phone banks. Reed also managed a Web consultant and a Hispanic and African-American consultant. On top of that Reed has to deal with the petty headaches that come with even the best campaigns, from the candidate's stockbroker questioning why the opponents' signs are all over the place to a reporter digging up an old secret.
"It's a 24-7 world. You are responding to e-mails, writing copy, worrying about the polling numbers, and the newspaper is like a snake on the front porch," Reed says.
Some of the campaign managers who've taken on Reed say that her success at least partly stems from cash. Reed's candidates typically come into the race with the best ability to collect money from the city's business community. Still, even Reed's critics acknowledge that she knows how to run a finely tuned campaign.
"In terms of being creative or original, I haven't seen it in the 10 or 15 years since I've been paying attention," says Brooks Love, who was on the opposite side of the Trinity campaign. "But she keeps it simple, which is a certain kind of genius. She comes up with a simple plan and executes it very well."
Well, there is more to it than just that. Reed, better than any other consultant in town, has mastered the fine art of momentum, perhaps the most underrated element in politics. While the electorate and media aren't paying attention to a campaign, she quietly raises money and doesn't go out of her way to put her candidate in the limelight. Then, just a few days before early voting begins, when voters start caring, she'll make sure they know who her candidate is and what he's about. That could include a candidate press conference, a mass e-mail to tens of thousands of voters, a well-timed series of TV ads or a stack of direct mail arriving just a day or two before the polls first open.
In the Trinity campaign, for example, Reed's pro-toll road side barely drew even with Hunt's campaign on the actual day of the election. It built its margin primarily off early voting.
"In a campaign like the Trinity you'll have folks saying, 'Why aren't we doing this?' or 'Why aren't we doing that?'" says Donna Halstead, the president of the Dallas Citizens Council, which bankrolled Reed's Trinity campaign. "Carol's answer is, 'It's too early. It's not time yet.' It's her sense of timing, how and when you peak in a campaign that's her greatest strength."
When Ron Kirk decided to run for mayor in the fall of 1995, the first person he called was Reed. Hoping to persuade Reed to lower her rates, he tried to impress upon her the significance of his candidacy.
"I gave her a Ron Kirk line about what a great opportunity it would be for her career to help elect the first black mayor, and she says, 'Let's get rid of that bullshit.'"
Reed was already signed up to work for a man named Tom Dunning. An insurance executive with close ties to both the corporate and nonprofit world, Dunning was the choice of the local business community, which usually was able to handpick the mayor of Dallas. At the time, though, racial tension plagued the city and when Kirk emerged as a possible candidate, Dunning stepped aside and the corporate folks turned their love to Kirk.
"Dunning always said as soon as somebody who he felt could get elected out of the minority community came forward, he would support them," Reed says. (By some accounts, Dunning was pressured to drop out of the race by a corporate leader who believed Dallas needed a black mayor to ease the city's racial strife.)
With her original client out of the ring, Reed was free to work for Kirk, who had previously served as Texas' secretary of state, an obscure post that gave him zero name recognition. Reed is not one to muse about the abstract significance of things, so when Kirk talked to her about making history, she talked to him about strategy. Unlike how she introduced an unknown Tom Leppert before the city 11 years later with a flurry of billboards and slick TV ads, Reed went with a more grassroots approach with Kirk.
She hired a professional to organize at least 100 "Meet Ron Kirk" coffees throughout the city, where neighborhood leaders, activists and other likely voters could see the candidate face to face. Reed's people also brought yard signs, nametags and brochures. On a good night, 40 to 60 people would show up, but the invitation alone served as a nifty campaign ad.
Reed's coffee strategy cost only $15,000, less than the price of a poll, and immediately created a buzz around the new candidate. Reporters crashed many of these functions and found Kirk to be effortlessly connecting with his audience.
But Reed had another reason for pushing Kirk before potential voters, long before she even put up a billboard.
"I did the coffees so that people would realize that Kirk was not a [Dallas County Commissioner] John Wiley Price, who was picketing every week, or [former city council member] Al Lipscomb," she says.
You could take that to mean that Reed wanted to show that her candidate was a racial moderate who wasn't going to really poke at the accepted order of doing things in Dallas, and maybe that was part of it. But Reed really did have to distinguish her candidate from the unseemly aspects of black leadership in the city at that time. Many black politicians, including Price and Lipscomb, had troubles with the law or just a knack for starring in silly controversies.
Even without Reed's help, Kirk was a natural politician in the best sense, brimming with charisma and star power. But even candidates on their way to victory can grow angry, bitter and disconsolate. Local leaders who promise their endorsements decide to hedge their bets, or donors send less money than promised. Reporters blow an off-the-cuff remark out of proportion. Kirk never really stumbled in the public eye, but he still counted on Reed's sense of perspective when things got rough.
"We'd go through this stupid drill. When someone angered me I'd say I'm going to call so-and-so and tell them what to do and where to go," Kirk recalls. "And she said, 'Well, that sounds good. Now say it again. I want to see how it will look in the Observer or on the front page of The Dallas Morning News when you're telling someone to go kiss your black...'"
Kirk doesn't finish his sentence. Reed taught him well.
Just three months after his own poll showed he only had 12 percent name identification with registered voters, Kirk won a massive victory over opponents Darrell Jordan and Domingo Garcia. It didn't hurt that Kirk, like nearly all of Reed's candidates, was able to outspend his opponents 2-to-1. (His campaign went through so much money that Reed was putting some expenses on her American Express card.)
Much like she did in the Leppert campaign, Reed paid little attention to her candidate's opponents. Instead, she relentlessly promoted her guy while rejecting the type of negative tactics that are common in most city races. After Kirk became the first black mayor of Dallas, the two did, in fact, soak up a ton of publicity for making history.
"All of it was two simple things: Ron Kirk and Carol Reed," wrote Dallas Observer columnist Laura Miller, who would go on to become Kirk's arch nemesis at this paper and later when she was elected to the city council. "The candidate and his manager—two personable, bright people with bigger-than-life personalities who came together in an incredibly unlikely coupling (a black Democrat and a white Republican strategist?) to knock Dallas on its keister."
Since the 1996 mayor's race, Kirk and Reed might as well have formed their own political party. She first helped him barely pass the arena referendum in 1997, giving tax breaks to developers building what was to become the American Airlines Center and Victory Park. Then just a few months after the arena vote, Reed directed another winning campaign when she helped Kirk squeak the original bond package for the Trinity River project past a skeptical electorate. Reed also worked on Kirk's one losing effort, his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate.
In high school Reed, born Carol Trumbauer, was a cheerleader in Thousand Oaks, California, a mountainous suburb just north of Los Angeles. The football team paid more attention to her than to their passing, blocking and tackling drills. You could hardly blame them. She wore tiny skirts and tight black sweaters and had a trim figure that came from playing sports with her younger brothers. Her medium-length blond hair framed an All-American smile.
The young cheerleader dated a few boys on the team here and there and was friends with many others. There were nights in which it seemed as though half the guys jammed into her Volkswagen Beetle. With Reed behind the wheel, they'd speed down the Southern California freeways blasting the latest Beach Boys song.
Reed had only decent grades in high school, choosing to focus her energy on being popular. On the nights when the prom committee stayed late to decorate the gym, she'd be the last to leave. "Lady, how far do you think you're going to get on personality?" her dad would ask her, and he made sure she learned debating and public speaking in high school.
After graduation, Reed attended California Lutheran in the same town where she grew up. College bored her, though, and she soon dropped out.
Reed needed a job, so she lied about her age to work in the claims department at Blue Cross Blue Shield. She loathed her dull, rote position, but the rest of her life made up for her daytime drudgery.
The recent college dropout lucked into a Santa Monica Boulevard apartment. Here she was with her own place in Southern California in the late 1960s. Everyone around her was talking about peace and love while smoking pot as the Mamas and the Papas played in the background. Reed avoided drugs—at least that's how she remembers it—but she wasn't knitting alone in her poolside room every night. Instead, she went dancing with Hollywood stuntmen, her blond hair swinging over her face as she lived a Disney version of '60s Southern California.
A beach girl at heart, Reed loved the West Coast and would still be there today had she never dropped by a bar one evening in Santa Monica. There she met Gerald Reed, a 32-year-old man who made an instant impression on the 19-year-old woman.
"He was tall, he was good-looking and he was Texan," Reed remembers.
Three months later, they eloped and moved to the Lone Star State.
When the fun-hearted Reed arrived in Tyler with her new husband, you would have never guessed she'd go on to become the consultant of choice for the Dallas establishment. Just a few months removed from her party days as a California dream girl, Reed tried joining the local Junior League but quit after only six months. While her husband worked for IBM, Reed played homemaker in a tony neighborhood of bank presidents and oilmen.
Then, not long after Reed turned 20, she gave birth to her first child. Months later she was pregnant again.
"Nothing else to do there," she quips.
Well, there is that. But Reed would soon learn that you can also get screwed in politics. One of the most successful campaign consultants in Texas slipped into the business by accident in 1968 after her husband agreed to become a county chairman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Eggars. One day when her husband was away on business, an Eggars aide dropped off scripts for radio ads and asked her to make sure they made it on air. The aide didn't leave her any cash, so Reed used her grocery money to pay for the radio spots. After they aired, she sent copies of her receipts to the Eggars campaign.
"I'm sure everyone started to crack up," she says.
After it became apparent no one was going to pay Reed back, she asked her amused neighbors for advice. "Well, I guess you're in the fund-raising business," one gentleman said. Her East Texas neighbors at that time were Democrats, but Reed scrounged up enough money to recoup her money.
In 1971, Gerald took a job in Dallas, and his wife and daughters Laura and Angela left Tyler behind. Once again Carol Reed tried to fit in with polite society, volunteering for nonprofit balls and playing tennis with Dallas homemakers. This was not fun.
"I decided I was going to kill myself," Reed jokes.
As she always seems to do, Reed found her crowd. She became friends with a tight-knit gaggle of young Republicans, including Ray Hutchison, the state legislator and future husband of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Dick Agnich, who worked as the administrative assistant for U.S. Senator John Tower. Agnich, whose father, Fred, was one of the early founders of Texas Instruments, hosted dinner parties that stretched through the night. There Hutchison, Agnich and Reed went through vintage bottles of red wine, talking about how they would change the state constitution.
Reed soon began volunteering for Republican campaigns, not necessarily out of any strong ideological convictions but because most of her friends belonged to the emerging party. One day while she was playing tennis at a local country club, Reed received a call from Tower, the first Republican elected statewide in Texas since Reconstruction.
Tower asked the 29-year-old homemaker if she wanted to work as his North Texas political director and explained what the job entailed. Reed replied she had no time for such a busy gig. When the senator informed her he was offering her a paid position, she began negotiating a raise.
"Well I know I have the right person for the job," Tower told her. "A minute ago you didn't even know what the job was, and now you want more money.
In 1978 Reed helped run Tower's re-election campaign against Democratic Congressman Robert Krueger. It was a razor-thin race, and it took three days of recounts to determine that the incumbent won and by a mere 12,000 votes.
Only 10 years removed from partying with Hollywood stuntmen, Reed was now a devoted Texas Republican who started making a name for herself in local party circles.
"I just remember her being very smart and savvy politically, and she had a gift for fund-raising," says Gary Griffith, the former Lakewood council member who ran for mayor against Leppert this spring. "It was just clear early on that she had the kinds of skills needed to be successful."
After Tower retired from the Senate in 1984, Reed worked for U.S. Senator Phil Gramm. She also started her own public relations and consulting company and became involved in Dallas politics. In 1987, she stunned her Republican friends when she directed Annette Strauss' mayoral campaign against Fred Meyer, who was then the local Republican chairman.
"Everybody was horrified that she would go work for Annette Strauss, a Democrat," says Pat Cotton, a Republican political consultant. "That cost her a lot of support in the Republican community, but she was doing what was best for Carol."
People who know Reed well portray her as a pragmatic businesswoman whose opportunism came out of necessity. While some of the women Reed played tennis with in the 1970s could afford to lick envelopes for the Republican Party for free, Reed had no such luxury. Her husband switched jobs throughout their marriage, and sometimes money was a little tight.
Then one day, Gerald announced he was going back to school to become a professor. Reed asked her husband how they would be able to maintain their lifestyle.
"He said, 'I don't care about this lifestyle; if you want to keep it, you have to figure out a way to keep it.'"
In 1998, in the wake of the winning arena and Trinity campaigns, the Reeds divorced after 30 years of marriage. By then the one-time California girl had made her mark as one of the best political consultants in town. She worked congressional and district attorney races, bond campaigns, referendums and U.S. Senate races. She lost here and there—she wasn't perfect—but after any race, win or lose, she moved on to the next. Maybe she had a lifestyle to keep. Or maybe she just really enjoyed a gig that she stumbled on by chance.
"She's lost some races, but she never lets it destroy her like it does other people," says Sharon Boyd, a political activist who has both worked with and against Reed on local campaigns. "There are some political consultants who were big shots in this town 15 or so years ago, and then they lose a race and they're done."
If you dig around for gossip and inside info deep in local political trenches, you'll find a few criticisms of Reed. The main one is that she wins as often as she does because her campaigns have the most resources. Reed's side almost always has more money to spend than its opponents since it's invariably the unspoken choice of the business community. In addition, Reed typically works for establishment candidates such as Chamber of Commerce heavyweights, high-profile prosecutors and business-friendly inanimate objects like the toll road and American Airlines Center. That almost guarantees her hearty support from respected and entrenched political, business and opinion leaders. In fact, all three candidates Reed has run for mayor won the endorsement of The Dallas Morning News.
Reed is also good friends with former city council member Donna Halstead, who runs the Dallas Citizens Council. A powerful, guarded organization—just try asking a question about their private deliberations—the Citizens Council is made up of some of the most well-known business leaders and attorneys in town. The group typically pushes for public financing of big, developer-friendly projects, and when a referendum holds one of them in the balance, the Citizens Council picks Reed to fight its battles. The two are so close that Halstead acknowledges that when Angela Hunt's petition succeeded in placing the future of the toll road to a vote, she didn't even think about choosing anyone but Reed.
"We have no formal relationship with Carol," Halstead says. "But certainly because she is very professional and very good at what she does, our paths cross frequently."
That works out well for Reed. In the Trinity campaign, the Citizens Council contributed nearly $300,000 to the Vote No! effort that was organized to defeat Hunt's initiative. Although some in the business community stood to make money off the planned highway between the Trinity River levees, others felt, with scant evidence, that killing the road would jeopardize funding for the park. More than anything, Hunt's initiative was a direct challenge to the authority of the business establishment, and that meant that Reed was going to get all the money she needed to fend off the peasants with pitchforks.
"The big thing going for her is her alliance with Donna Halstead and the Citizens Council," says Cotton, who helped campaign against the toll road. "It seems like she never takes a position opposite to the business community, and when you have that kind of money behind you, that's pretty effective."
During a lunch, Reed scoffs at the anti-business sentiment that runs through many campaigns, particularly those that go against her. "I don't understand how you can have an anti-business attitude in a town that wouldn't be here except for business," she says, repeating a refrain that's probably uttered solemnly before every secret meeting of the Citizens Council. "That's what built this city."
Reed acknowledges that her candidates often have the most money but suggests that she deserves a little credit for that. Fund-raising is her first love, and Rudy Giuliani is just one person who thinks she's pretty good at it. On the heavily funded Leppert campaign, for example, Reed says, "We raised that money. We put the organization together. I mean Tom Leppert had a finance committee that had over 100 people on it, and we managed that."
Others note that Reed has a formidable Rolodex of potential donors. While other consultants are only seen come campaign season, Reed is active in civic affairs. During her political career, she has served on more than 20 boards, including such high-profile ones as the Dallas Ballet, Friends of Fair Park and the American Red Cross. Reed also served as the president of the Rotary Club in 1996, a few years after she and Kay Bailey Hutchison were the group's first female members.
If there's a second, more nuanced complaint about Reed, it's that her campaigns all follow the same script. Of course, that's usually a good thing. Still, when you throw a wild card into the mix, such as the charismatic, well-funded candidate Laura Miller, Reed can't always adapt. In the 2002 mayor's race, Reed's no-fuss approach to campaigns seemed antiquated in light of Miller's rock star appeal, and the former Dallas Observer reporter went on to thump Reed's client, Tom Dunning.
"She's really good at getting the right people lined up and then going on autopilot," says one political insider who preferred to remain anonymous. "Sometimes that will work for you, and sometimes that doesn't."
Another case where it didn't work was the campaign of Toby Shook, the star prosecutor who lost last year's Dallas County district attorney election to Craig Watkins. Like most of Reed's clients, Shook, a Republican, had the most money and, of course, the endorsement of the Morning News. But Watkins, who had almost no prosecutorial experience and whose problems with the IRS frequently made headlines, slipped past Shook on Election Day in one of the biggest upsets in local political history.
It's hard to blame Shook's loss on Reed. Thanks to an unpopular war and president, many county voters simply decided to pull a straight Democratic ticket. It's also worth noting that every Republican on the ballot who was up for a countywide seat lost last year. None of the other GOP consultants found a magic formula for that night either.
But if there was ever a race where Reed could have silenced her critics once and for all, the district attorney's race would have been it. Instead, political observers say that Reed simply didn't know how to react when her own polling was telling her that Shook was in trouble.
Rather than improvise on the fly, Reed stuck to her original message that her candidate had the most experience. She couldn't come up with any message or tactic that could cover Shook from the anti-Bush hailstorm. In fact, this was one race when Reed's upbeat approach to her job may have come back to haunt her.
"Carol is very easygoing and always optimistic; she's a motivator and a cheerleader," says the insider. "But sometimes she's 'We're so great and we're going to win' when she just needs to be more upfront."
One criticism you won't hear about Reed is that she runs nasty campaigns. She is aggressive and competitive, but you'll not often see her beat up an opposing candidate—and even then, her strategy will focus solely on his record.
"I've never felt like she's done anything unprofessional ever," says Woodlief, with Allyn & Co. "I don't think she will ever do something that will go below the belt. She's very involved in the community, and she's very protective of her reputation."
In the mayor's race runoff between Ed Oakley and Leppert, Oakley and his Republican operatives lashed out within a few days.They painted Leppert as a rogue corporate executive, lambasting the candidate for leading a construction company that became enmeshed in an ugly battle with the U.S. Justice Department. In fact, Leppert became CEO after the feds began investigating the company, and he helped clean up the mess, but those fine points were not grasped by anyone who saw Oakley's television spots on the subject. Oakley also seemed to mock Leppert's facial twitch—in fairness, we have too—when he ran footage of his twitchy opponent in a separate ad.
Leppert's campaign barely struck back. They decried Oakley's tactics and highlighted the council member's recent lack of professionalism on the council, but they never took any personal or ugly shots. That's why after Leppert went on to crush Oakley, the vanquished candidate had no qualms about working with Reed on the Trinity fight.
"I don't think I run the kind of campaign that causes people to dislike me afterward," she says. "I viewed the business like I do as a chess game. You want to outsmart them; it doesn't meanyou want to destroy them."
Having nearly upended the mighty Reed machine, Angela Hunt is not particularly impressed. The Vote No! campaign told blatantlies, she says matter-of-factly, and she's right about that. There was the tall tale Leppert told about how the Army Corps of Engineers gave its approval to the planned toll road, which would be the first of its kind built in a flood plain. Turns out, the Corps is still evaluating the city's proposals. Then there was the campaign's entire premise that Hunt's plan to kill the highway would raise taxes, while their plan, they promised, certainly would not. As the Morning News reported, conveniently a day after the election, that wasn't true either.
Hunt doesn't know how much of that falls on Reed or the toll road campaign's chief emissary, Leppert. Most people pin it on him. The mayor was the one who first peddled his side's falsehoods at public events and interviews. But Hunt doesn't care as much about how her opponent fought. What she keeps on thinking about is how, even with the mighty Reed manning the controls, the political and business establishment eked out a six-point victory against a ragtag coalition of ordinary residents, with nary a council member or big-time developer in the mix.
"I just go back to all the toys they had at their disposal; it should have been a blowout," Hunt says. "I think it's a clear indication that the cabal that has ruled this city without input from residents is on the way out."
At a lunch at a restaurant in the West Village, Reed is happily recounting a recent trip she took to oilman Boone Pickens' ranch. Pickens, a Giuliani supporter, decided to treat the candidate's top fund-raisers to a day of quail hunting. For New Year's Reed will be attending Renaissance Weekend, an exclusive retreat for a select group of heavyweights in the arenas of science, the arts, religion, business, politics and media. This year the invitation-only event will be held in Charleston.
"I can't think of a better way to spend New Year's Eve than watching Ted Turner and Dr. Ruth singing 'Auld Lang Syne,'" she says. "That's great fun."
When told that Hunt was unimpressed with her margin of victory in the recent Trinity campaign, Reed was barely irritated. She just pointed out that her side, while perceived as the heavy favorite, was behind in her polling when the campaign began in earnest. "Coming from where we came from, I'm pleased," Reed says before moving to another subject. Now just about any other fixture in this petty little world would become defensive here and take a shot or two at Hunt. Reed, though, could not care less. You can call her good; you can call her lucky. She probably doesn't care what you think.
"Everybody has a Carol Reed in their high school," says Boyd, the activist who battled furiously against her in the Trinity election. "You don't know what they got, but they got it."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- That's It Then: The Cowboys 2015 Season Gets Put Out of Its Misery
Sat., Nov. 28, 7:00pm
Sat., Nov. 28, 7:30pm
Sun., Nov. 29, 2:00pm
Tue., Dec. 1, 7:00pm
- The Cowboys' 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Turkeys
- Live From London: Your Holiday Weekend Weather Apocaforecast