City Hall

Old Guard Will Never Understand the New Middle Earth of Dallas

Winning political consultant Anna Casey describes the center of the city as Middle Earth, a term borrowed from Tolkien's  The Lord of the Rings.
Mawardi Bahar
Winning political consultant Anna Casey describes the center of the city as Middle Earth, a term borrowed from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Now we know. We can predict future local elections. Based on the outcomes in the just-concluded Dallas City Council elections, we have a reliable yardstick by which to know in advance who’s going to lose, who’s going to win and what the real issue is.

To know who’s going to lose, look for candidates who have received large amounts of money from oilman Ray Hunt; Hunt’s man Friday, John Scovell; real estate developers Jack Matthews and Craig Hall; construction contractor and do-or-die Trinity tollroad booster Peter Beck; and that dear lady-of-the-toll-road, Deedie Rose. If they’re pouring the money in, the recipient is going to get shellacked, as their candidates did in this latest go-round.

But wait. It gets better. If you really want to know who the losers are, look for the ones who also have been strongly supported by the super PAC For Our Community, run by political dirty trickster Mari Woodlief of Allyn Media. When the votes were counted last weekend, the battlefield was littered with Woodlief’s bodies.

Candidate Matt Wood, whom Woodlief’s PAC supported against Philip Kingston in East Dallas District 14: dead on arrival. Monica Alonzo in West Dallas District 6, an incumbent safely under the wing of the mayor who should have been a shoe-in: no longer with us.

Tiffini Young in South Dallas District 7, who made the supreme sacrifice and betrayed her district in favor of the mayor on the Fair Park issue, has now passed on to her everlasting political reward.

Erik Wilson in far southern Dallas District 8: Whenever the mayor said "jump," he always asked how high, how fast and how long. He's now among the dear departed.

So if you see these deep-pockets people  supporting a candidate and you see Woodlief, try not to be rude but do put a clothespin on your nose because that candidate has been deceased for a while.

Let’s say you’re still not sure. You see that the candidate’s eyes are kind of glassy and you think you notice a certain rigidity. But you’re nervous. Maybe it’s just a coma. You need to be absolutely certain before you put a cork in it.

Find out: Has the candidate in question ever been endorsed by The Dallas Morning News? Yes? OK, this candidate is now on the verge of becoming a public health issue.

If a candidate received generous support from Hunt, Woodlief’s super PAC worked for him and The Dallas Morning News endorsed him, you need to call for the body bag.

I notice that the Morning News doesn’t even try to embalm the people it endorses any more. Take a look at the way it endorsed Alonzo in District 6. First it said: “In three terms, Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo has failed to demonstrate forward-looking leadership and proactive communication with constituents.”

Then it gave details:  “She offered tepid responses to the pending eviction of dozens of West Dallas families in a dispute with HMK, a manager of substandard rental units, and she struggled to engage early when residents who would be impacted by a cement plant near their neighborhood complained.”

It went on: “Alonzo, 52, cast a bewildering vote to block an expansion of a popular and well-regarded charter school program in West Dallas after the city's Plan Commission, including her appointee, had unanimously recommended that the council approve the plan.”

It added: “Most disturbing is how steadfastly she refuses to take public positions.”

But then it said this: “Alonzo, who serves as mayor pro tem, has been on the right side of many city issues, such as favoring the Trinity project.”

Trinity project. Got it? That’s the toll road. That’s the mega-billion-dollar boondoggle that Hunt and Beck and all those dudes want to build on top of the Trinity River so they can ruin our chances for a cool urban park. Count this out with me: According to the News, Monica Alonzo was basically horrible on every count except that she was a safe vote for the tollroad.

The paper said finally: “We reluctantly recommend incumbent Monica Alonzo. … Despite her flaws, Alonzo is the better choice.”

Umm ... better for whom? You just told us she was absolutely horrible for her own constituents. So you mean she’s better for Beck and his construction company. Wow, there’s a ringing endorsement. I hope if I’m ever sick and in the hospital, I don’t hear the Morning News editorial writers out in the hallway endorsing me.

After the election, after candidates the Morning News endorsed got their butts kicked, the same editorial page posted a lead editorial under the headline, “Dallas Council Winners, prove our concerns unfounded,” meaning the writers wanted the winners in the election to prove that the paper didn’t need to be concerned about them.

What part of "screw you" do they do not understand? They tried to get these people defeated. They worked hard to secure the elections of people like Alonzo, whom they openly conceded was unqualified to hold office. They ginned up fake junk about Omar Narvaez, the guy who beat Alonzo, because someone Narvaez knew supposedly got into a rhubarb with a restaurant owner over a campaign sign. On that basis, the News told voters to deep-six Narvaez and vote instead for the incumbent, whom it admitted was a known demonstrated disaster in office.

And then the writers think the people who won election in spite of them are supposed to worry about not disappointing them? How about they take their disappointment and put it where the sun don’t shine?

OK, now we know how to tell who’s going to lose — whoever is supported by the above. And we know the only issue that really counts with the above: the Trinity tollroad. So how do we know who will win?

Easy. Based on the same results from the same election, the winners will be the candidates whose campaigns were run by veteran political consultant Anna Casey. In this cycle, Casey won five out of seven races in which she helped run the campaign or consulted, including some of the biggest in-your-face defeats of incumbents. That’s pretty amazing. It is the flip-side of the Woodlief record of defeat.

I asked her how she does it. She told me part of her basic vision of Dallas is what she calls Middle Earth — the growing realm where everything cool and forward is happening in the city. It’s East Dallas, Uptown, Oak Lawn, the Design District, across the river to West Dallas, up into North Oak Cliff, back across the river to the Cedars, Park Row, parts of South Dallas and the Fair Park area. It’s the swelling, dynamic heart of the new city, and Casey says the old guard represented by Woodlief and the Morning News just doesn’t get it, can’t get it and never will get it.

She compared herself to Woodlief: “I think I know the people of Dallas better than she does, for one thing. I think I am absolutely a better strategist. I think I have better candidates. I have better taste in candidates. I just do.”
click to enlarge District 6 City Council candidate Omar Narvaez won in spite of The Dallas Morning News' very left-handed endorsement of  his opponent, incumbent Monica Alonzo. - JIM SCHUTZE
District 6 City Council candidate Omar Narvaez won in spite of The Dallas Morning News' very left-handed endorsement of his opponent, incumbent Monica Alonzo.
Jim Schutze
Casey believes, as do I, that building the Trinity tollroad along the river is always the central issue for the old establishment. Now, because the toll road has become the do-or-die banner for the entire regime and continued rule, building it may be the only thing it really cares about anymore.

“You can’t take the tollroad out of anything anymore,” Casey told me. “It is the heart. It is everything.”

Because the tollroad is what the old guard really cares about but can’t admit, Casey thinks its political strategies will always be fundamentally flawed.

“To sell what they are selling, you have to lie. You have to say, ‘Oh, well, we really care about you.’ But they don’t. They have to lie," she says.

“I don’t have to lie. My people really have records of caring about people. They really have done things that show that they are visionary and they are hardworking.”

Casey and I share another basic belief about the tollroad establishment, which explains why people don’t see the obvious trend in the city and try to join it.

“They fundamentally don’t have respect for people who don’t have money,” she said. “We must be flawed. There must be something in the bloodline. There must be some reason. We can’t be as intelligent.

“The reason they keep on losing these elections is ultimately because that’s the way they think. And when they’re trying to make a sincere pitch to the people of Middle Earth, they can’t do it.”

At least Middle Earth knows now what to expect, and Middle Earth won’t just expect it: Middle Earth can’t wait.