Wannabe kingmaker: Don Hill is still the most interesting thing about the mayor's race, even though he's no longer in it. One month after he finished one spot out of the runoff, Hill finds himself the subject of criticism and innuendo after he endorsed Tom Leppert over Ed Oakley, Hill's Oak Cliff colleague and longtime political ally.
"What the hell is he thinking about?" says John Barr, Hill's former campaign treasurer. "I had many conversations with Don Hill where he was ripping on Tom Leppert."
"As shocked as anyone" by Hill's decision, Oakley lashed out at Hill saying Hill's campaign advisors asked him for three installments of $250,000. Only then would Hill endorse Oakley.
Hill's advisors, Saundra Lohr and Ken Carter, rapidly denied Oakley's claims, saying that they had no desire to be a part of Oakley's campaign. They said if they talked money, it was only about how much it would cost to pay for an effective get-out-the-vote effort in southern Dallas, an effort they were not angling to join. As for Oakley, when pressed by Buzz minutes before a forum at Paul Quinn College, he stood by his story. Then, an hour or so later, he told a predominantly black audience that he was endorsed by the NAACP, which just happens to be false. Oakley also went out of his way to mention how close he and Hill are, a curious boast for someone who believes that his one-time ally tried to solicit a bribe from him.
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But Barr told Dallas Voice reporter David Webb that Oakley's story is true: That Hill's endorsement hinged on Oakley hiring his campaign staff. Hill then posted a comment on the Dallas Observer blog, Unfair Park, saying that he never asked Oakley or Leppert for anything in exchange for his support. When Buzz caught up to Barr on Friday, the attorney said that he has no direct knowledge of Hill's conversations with the candidates. He just finds Hill's support of Leppert, a North Dallas Republican, troubling.
"I think Oakley would make a damn good mayor, and Hill did too," Barr says. "He said he would endorse him. He told me that. He told Oakley that. He told people who supported him he would do that, and now he's doing this. Why the change?"
Hill's camp says they simply think Leppert is the better candidate.
"Don did not cut any deal with Tom. Zero. This was Don looking at it from where he stood and what is best for the city," Carter says. "There are some assumptions people have made, but they don't know where Don's heart is."