Already, in the four days or so since Saturday's Dallas municipal election, a narrative has sprung up. Mike Rawlings, the thinking goes, was given a decisive mandate by Dallas voters, reflected in his 46-point win over attorney Marcos Ronquillo.
The mayoral election was a blowout, but trying to draw any conclusions from a race in which only 7 percent of voters cared enough to show up is dumb. Very few people knew who Ronquillo was, his campaign never went negative and never had any money to increase its visibility. Rawlings is likable enough that he wasn't going to come close to losing a plebiscite, which is what the mayoral election essentially was: Rawlings or anyone but Rawlings.
Given that set of facts, the "anti-toll road jihadist goofballs" -- as Faux Mayor Mike, the Rawlings parody Twitter account calls them -- seemed unsuccessful in galvanizing substantial opposition to the proposed Trinity toll road. The vote totals of the various candidates in City Council races around the city, however, can -- remember, it's stupid to try to draw any real conclusions -- tell a different story if that's something one wants them to do.
A note about methodology: All totals come from the Dallas County Elections website. Vote counts for all candidates receiving more than 5 percent of the vote in their districts were included in the tabulation. There was a large number of unopposed incumbents running, which would typically skew the data, so we totaled up the votes both with and without those running unopposed.
With the incumbents included, 18,973 voters supported candidates who favor the Trinity toll road. Anti-toll road candidates received 18,686 votes. Candidates who were, after more than two decades, still undecided on the toll road received 1,355.
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Take the incumbents out and the totals change, but the margins don't. For the toll road: 11,381 votes. Against: 10,987.
Mark Clayton, who produced the most interesting result of the night when he avoided a runoff in a crowded, well-funded District 9 field, received the most votes of any non-incumbent (3,647). Clayton is strongly against the toll road and gave one of the best quotes of the campaign when he said Dallas was facing a "slow erosion into becoming a truck stop for the suburbs."
The performance of Jennifer Gates is also worth noting. Despite facing no opposition, 4,644 of her constituents came out to vote for her, the highest total for any candidate. Her North Dallas district, despite Gates' being the only name on the council ballot, had the third-highest turnout overall, trailing only the hotly contested Districts 9 and 10. Over the past few months, Gates has begun to show more leadership on the council and seems to be building a considerable power base and turnout operation in District 13.
What does all this mean? Feel free to argue amongst yourselves.