Vaught's Seat Still Up for Grabs

State Rep. Allen Vaught

Lauren Mish, the youngish campaign manager for Allen Vaught, is confident that her candidate will score a victory over former Lakewood-area state Rep. Bill Keffer, the Republican challenger. Talking to her as she set up her laptop in the front corner of the boisterous Lakewood Tavern, she didn't seem at all concerned that Vaught only had a mere six-point lead after early voting -- even as other Dallas Democrats looked like they already clinched their races. Mish says that Vaught's Lakewood-East Dallas district is still not reliably Democratic and that this rematch was always going to be close. Still, if she was at all worried that Keffer could overtake Vaught as the general election results trickled in, she didn't show it.

"We're very encouraged by the early voting results and by Democrats in Dallas County overall," she says.

Of course, I had to ask her about Bill Keffer's dirty flier, which made the Willie Horton spots look like a Benneton ad. But my question didn't so much as draw a scowl from the campaign manager, who doesn't seem to get too worked up about anything.

"It was overtly racist and that doesn't seem to fly these days," she says matter-of-factly.

It's hard to tell if Mish's confidence is misplaced. Here at the Lakewood Tavern, where Vaught has yet to show (he was due earlier in the evening), a packed house of his supporters is drinking and celebrating Obama's imminent victory. I can hear a few of them tear into Sarah Palin -- "She's the worst thing ever," one woman says with disgust -- as the bartender keeps the taps running. There are red, white and blue balloons dangling from bar stools, and Vaught campaign signs plastered on the walls. Everyone seems to be having the time of their life. Complete strangers are sitting at my table -- without my permission, but whatever -- and talking to me about how Vaught is going to win. I'd think they'd be a wee bit nervous, but from the looks of things here, not so much.

Jeff Thiebeault, an East Dallas resident and former precinct judge, is also sure that Vaught will defeat Keffer for one simple reason: He takes care of the basics: "Mainly he does his homework, when I call his office, he returns calls and returns e-mails. That's the sign of good incumbent, he is very.responsive." --Matt Pulle