Setting the Morning Line for the Dallas Mayor’s Race

State Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas
State Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas
Brian Maschino
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This weekend is about as good as get for Dallas sports fans. The Stars have critical playoff games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, the Rangers are in town all weekend and the Kentucky Derby is Saturday afternoon. Stir in what should be an entertaining scrap between Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs for the unified middleweight world championship Saturday night, and there shouldn't be a dull moment for anyone with access to a screen and a remote over the next three days.

In that spirit, it's worth taking a look at the other big story in Dallas this weekend from a perspective that should be familiar to sports bettors everywhere: the morning line.

Dallas' mayoral race is wide open, with nine candidates who've participated in an endless round of forums, spent a boatload of cash and filled mailbox upon mailbox with glossy mailers, only to see voters turn out at their usual, abysmal rate. Eight of the candidates could finish first or second, guaranteeing a spot in June's runoff, without it coming as too much of shock.

There's enough information out there, whether it's come in the form of donation numbers, endorsements or early-voting numbers, to make what my high school statistics teacher would've called a scientific wild-ass guess about the chances of the various candidates.

Here, from worst to best, are the Observer news vertical's odds on which candidates will end up in the runoff. (If you're so inclined, we'd love to hear your guesses in the comments, as well.)

Alyson Kennedy is running for mayor of Dallas as the candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, a pro-Castro Trotskyite communist party.EXPAND
Alyson Kennedy is running for mayor of Dallas as the candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, a pro-Castro Trotskyite communist party.
Jim Schutze

Alyson Kennedy: 25,000-1 — Kennedy is an avowed communist and hasn't filed a campaign finance report because she hasn't raised any money. One might be tempted by the long odds, but stranger things haven't happened.  Jason Villalba: 50-1 — Villalba had a lane. He's the only Republican to have held elected office in the field, and Dallas is still a city with a lot of Republican voters. Villalba struggled to raise money, however, and failed to win The Dallas Morning News' endorsement, despite the rightward tilt of the paper's editorial board and the fact that it endorsed three candidates in the race.

Businessman and mayoral candidate Albert Black has never held elective office but has the longest track record of work on civic issues among candidates.
Businessman and mayoral candidate Albert Black has never held elective office but has the longest track record of work on civic issues among candidates.
courtesy of the Albert Black for Mayor Campaign

Albert Black: 20-1 — Black's been in the race the longest, having announced his candidacy in the summer of 2018, and appeared to be a prodigious fundraiser when the first campaign finance reports in the race were released. Despite some good moments, Black's fundraising has dried up as more candidates have entered the field. Over the last reporting period, his $44,000 total was less than every candidate but Villalba and Kennedy.

Regina Montoya, Hillary Clinton's choice for Dallas mayor.EXPAND
Regina Montoya, Hillary Clinton's choice for Dallas mayor.
Nathan Hunsinger

Regina Montoya: 15-1 — Montoya certainly has credentials. She was the co-chair of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' Task Force on Poverty and previously served as the general counsel for Children's Medical Center in Dallas. In the '90s, Montoya was an assistant to President Bill Clinton and U.S. representative to the United Nations. This is her first major foray into local politics, however, and Montoya has struggled to stand out from the field, despite endorsements from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Emily's List. 

Our better, come to save us.
Our better, come to save us.
Lynn McBee for Mayor

Lynn McBee: 10-1 — McBee's candidacy has the look of one that should be among the favorites to get into a runoff. She's raised more than $750,000, leading the field, and says all the right things — she lists safer neighborhoods and protecting taxpayers among her top priorities — to appeal to the older, whiter electorate that shows up to vote in municipal elections. If she was a longtime Dallas resident, she might be a shoo-in, but the fact that McBee only moved to Dallas from Highland Park in August has led to her candidacy feeling a little off from the start. Maybe Dallas wants its economic betters to move here and tell us what to do, but it's yet to be seen. 

Mike Ablon: 9-2 — Ablon gets credit for making himself visible in a race in which name recognition is the single most important thing a candidate can have. He's been on TV early and often, has yard signs everywhere and couple of can't-miss billboards along Dallas freeways. No one outside of those who pay close attention to Dallas' development community or the goings-on surrounding the proposed Trinity Park knew his name before he declared his candidacy, but Ablon has positioned himself for a strong finish Saturday. 

State Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas
State Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas
Brian Maschino

Eric Johnson: 3-2 — Prior to becoming the last candidate to enter the mayor's race, Johnson was already well known for his work on behalf of West Dallas as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Since hopping in the pool, Johnson, a Democrat, has picked up a bevy of endorsements from Dallas' traditionally conservative business elite and had no problem raising money. If he can turn out his base from his Texas House district in addition to the new support he's received, Johnson will move on to the next round. That's a big if, however. No council district that overlaps Johnson's house district has seen turnout above 5% in early voting.

Dallas City Council member and mayoral candidate Scott GriggsEXPAND
Dallas City Council member and mayoral candidate Scott Griggs
Mark Graham

Scott Griggs: 4-5 — Griggs' fundraising hasn't been great and turnout has only been so-so in his North Oak Cliff council district, but the intangibles are there for his campaign. People aware enough of city politics to vote in mayoral elections know who Griggs is, and he's earned an army of hardcore supporters through his battles with the Dallas establishment over the now-dead Trinity River toll road, the now-settled Dallas police pay lawsuit and other civic boondoggles like the Margaret McDermott Bridge. More than anyone in the race, Griggs has articulated a coherent vision of what he wants for Dallas. That vision — which includes things like guaranteed paid sick leave for every worker in the city and more low-income housing throughout Dallas — might be anathema to the old-school power structure that's driven municipal politics for decades, but at least it's clear what a Griggs-led Dallas would attempt to achieve.

Dallas school trustee Miguel SolisEXPAND
Dallas school trustee Miguel Solis
Jim Schutze

Miguel Solis: 1-2 — There's only one candidate in the mayoral race who has combined previous experience in elected office, establishment endorsements and social-media savvy, and that's Miguel Solis. Solis has the Morning News endorsement in his back pocket to ensure conservative voters that he's a safe choice, along with the charisma and progressive political chops to attract voters who might be new to municipal politics. Solis looks like a good bet to crack 20 percent Saturday, which should be enough for him to break into the top two. 

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