One hundred and fourteen votes. That's all that kept Clay Jenkins from securing the Democratic nomination for county judge on March 2. Instead, he'll take on former Dallas City Council member Larry Duncan in the April 13 runoff election to determine Republican Wade Emmert's opponent in November.
Echoing much of what he's said throughout the campaign, Duncan tells Unfair Park that he views the job as a destination as opposed to merely "a stepping stone to something better" for Jenkins, who's a lawyer and co-owner of a dental health services company. He also questions Jenkins's Democratic credentials by pointing out that in 2000 he contributed $250 to President George W. Bush's campaign.
After Jenkins voted in the 2006 general election in Dallas County, he voted in the May 2007 municipal election in Ellis County before casting another vote in Dallas County in the 2008 general election. Duncan cites this inconsistency as a reason to give voters pause.
Duncan also claims that Jenkins was able to grab his lengthy endorsement list, which includes U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and more than 100 Democratic precinct chairs, based on his willingness to do the bidding of powerful local Democrats. He says Jenkins would not have voted against the wishes of State Senator Royce West and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price (both Jenkins supporters) on issues like the inland port.
"Commissioner Price and Senator West have an indirect interest in the inland port project," Duncan says. "[Jenkins] will do what they want as county judge."
We hoped that Jenkins would respond to these allegations, along with a concern of our own: Just how long has Jenkins really lived in Dallas County?
"I was born in Oak Cliff and have lived all over Dallas County for a total of 21 years, most recently from 2001 to present," Jenkins wrote in a voter's guide questionnaire provided by The Dallas Morning News.
Records show that Jenkins obtained the deed on his Highland Park home on July 7, 2006, shortly before his first Dallas County vote -- the aforementioned 2006 general election. And from 2002 to 2007, when he claims to have lived in Dallas County, he was voting in Ellis County.
When we first spoke to Taylor McCarty, Jenkins's campaign manager, she said Jenkins couldn't sit down for an interview because he was "busy campaigning and raising money." She suggested that we send our questions via e-mail. We did just that on March 4.
Follow-up e-mails were sent asking when we could expect a response. We received nothing. Phone calls were made asking the same. Again, nada. Finally, we reached McCarty late last week. She said she was in a meeting and would get back with us. Never happened.
We called and e-mailed this morning explaining that without a response by 1 p.m., our story would reflect that Jenkins has refused to answer questions. At 12:52, we received a statement in lieu of specific answers to our inquiries.
My family and I have been involved with Texas, North Texas and Dallas Democratic politics for most of my life. I am proud that I have made so many friends and had opportunities to work on many projects with fellow Democrats. When I decided to run for Dallas County Judge, I was very grateful to have those relationships and a reputation for being honest, plain spoken and effective. Due to those loyal friendships and the positions I have articulated during the campaign, I earned the support and endorsement of many elected officials and longtime Democrats.
Among our questions to Jenkins: Where did he live before his current residence in Highland Park? Why didn't he vote in Dallas County until 2006? Why did he vote in Ellis County in 2007? None of which, obviously, were deemed worthy of a response from Jenkins or his campaign.
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Instead, the statement appears to respond to only one of our 10 questions: "How were you able to court your lengthy endorsement list?"
Which leaves us to ponder why such a decision was made. When pressed for a response, his campaign didn't take time to explain the questions surrounding his residency or voting habits. It didn't respond to Duncan's allegations that he'll essentially be a puppet for West, Price and others in the Democratic Party. It didn't even explain what it was about Jim Foster's performance that convinced him to run in the first place.
It decided to defend how he landed his endorsements.
If that's where his campaign feels he's most vulnerable, then perhaps we learned more about Jenkins than he wanted us to.