All's Quiet on the Northwestern Front

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The missus and I just concluded a morning tour of the Northwest Dallas polling places, and so far, no drama -- or voters, for that matter. At 9:32, we were Nos. 53 and 54 at Leonides Cigarroa Elementary School on Webb Chapel Road and Walnut Hill Lane (our third polling place in three elections, come to think of it). "It's been slow," said a poll worker, "slower than usual." But it's early.

"Still 10 hours to go," said Laura Leppert, wife of candidate Tom, who we bumped into at the Northaven United Methodist Church on Preston Road. By 10:30, she and others there said that about 80 people had voted, but unlike several other places we visited this morning, there was a steady stream of people pulling into the parking lot. Indeed, there was even a line of folks waiting to vote. Funny scene over there -- a greeting committee consisting of Sam Coats, Mrs. Leppert and Darrell Jordan supporter Ray Garfield, who went to Hillcrest High School with my pops and asked me to send his regards (which, far as I am concerned, I've just done).

When we drove up, Coats was sporting a Texas Rangers ball cap, trying to keep his pale pate from glowing sunburn-red, till his pal George Bramlett, a partner at Haynes and Boone, told him he was unrecognizable beneath the brim. "You spent all that money playing up the fact you're bald and short," Bramlett told him. "Don't waste it now."

Speaking of Coats and candidates' wives, earlier in the morning, at a polling place near Preston Hollow Elementary, we ran into Coats' wife, Judy. She said last night, she and her husband went downtown to meet with some folks at a homeless shelter. On the way, Judy said, she asked him: "How will I console you if you don't make the runoff?" Then, she said, she paused a moment and asked him, "And how you will console me if you do?" She said there ought to be a school for mayor's wife, which I thought was sweetly optimistic. I also told her, hell, just call Steve Wolens.

Laura Leppert also told the missus a funny story: On Tuesday, Leppert said, she was working an early-voting place in Preston Hollow. Up came a woman who'd clearly been jogging; she was in her workout attire, her sweaty hair covered with a ball cap. Leppert went to introduce herself: "Hi, I'm Laura Leppert..." The woman stopped her and introduced herself: "Hi, I'm Laura Miller." Politics are so...cute sometimes. And, yeah, if it seems like everyone's just hanging out in the clear sunshine shootin' the breeze, well, it's because they is. Fear and loathing on the campaign trail? Not so much. Not so far.

We didn't see any Trinity Vote petition-gatherers this morning -- not till we ran into Judy Coats, who happened to have a petition in her car. At Northaven United, there was indeed a young dude with longish, curly hair gathering signatures -- though it was a little confusing, since he was wearing a "Sink the Petition! Save the Trinity!" T-shirt. "I voted for Laura Miller and was a supporter," he said, "till I learned more about the Trinity Vote people and what they had to say. Now I want to show people you can support the Trinity project and still be opposed to the toll road." A middle-aged African American woman named Carol was out there handing out "Sink the Petition!" literature; the dude said they've gotten along just fine. She's less a blocker than, oh, a baker of cookies. So much for the cheap thrills of promised confrontation.

Indeed, reports from all over the city -- which is to say, from Jim Schutze and a couple of pals in East Dallas and near downtown -- are that things are slow, slow, slow. Few voters, few petition-collectors, none of the hired-gun blockers of which we had many reports during early voting.

If you want excitement looks like you'll have to head to Farmers Branch, where a friend who lives there -- next to a polling place -- says the town is crawling with media, local and national. (The Today show led off its first segment this morning with a piece about the fight over Ordinance 2903.) "They're everywhere," says our pal, meaning both media members and voters who are piling into polling places. "There are satellite trucks just driving through neighborhoods, looking for people to talk to." --Robert Wilonsky

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