If the first round of Dallas' municipal election taught us anything, it's that nobody — except D Magazine contributing editor Eric Celeste, who went full-Nostradamus on the mayoral results — knows anything when it comes to low-turnout free-for-alls.
Rumor had it before the election that the race between former Mayor Laura Miller and incumbent City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates in North Dallas' District 13 was going to be tight. It wasn't. Gates won by 30 percentage points. Philip Kingston, facing a similar "anyone but him" type challenge to the one he easily beat back in 2017, found himself preparing for a runoff early Saturday night.
In the mayor's race, Miguel Solis and Lynn McBee both amassed prodigious campaign war chests and picked up a third of The Dallas Morning News' bizarre three-way endorsement. Neither made the runoff, and Solis, who ran perhaps the slickest campaign of any of the nine candidates to make the ballot, finished fifth, with a little more than a 10th of the first-round vote.
Low sample sizes mean that anything, including results that might as well be random, can happen when Dallas goes to choose its leaders. That doesn't mean there aren't a few morsels worth digesting to be found in Dallas County's precinct by precinct election data.
Taking a look at the precinct by precinct map, the first thing that stands out is that there were three distinct bands of voters in the first round. State Rep. Eric Johnson (represented in gold on the map), who finished first over his runoff opponent, Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs, won a band that extends from South Oak Cliff in the southwest to Fair Park and Far East Dallas. Griggs, green on the map, won his own district in North Oak Cliff, along with the central Dallas core that includes downtown, Uptown and East Dallas. McBee and Mike Ablon, two candidates with similar platforms, dominated North Dallas but ended up canceling each other out.
To win the runoff, it's imperative that Griggs drive up or at least maintain turnout in North Oak Cliff — District 1 had just the fifth-highest turnout of Dallas' 14 council districts in round one — and hope that he was the second- or third-choice candidate for a number of McBee and Ablon voters.
Johnson's goals are similar. He needs to drive up turnout in West Dallas, the area he represents in the Legislature, and use the endorsements and cash he's received from Dallas' business and political community — Monday, Johnson announced that three former Dallas mayors, Ron Kirk, Tom Leppert and Steve Bartlett are endorsing him — to lock down votes in North Dallas.
It's also worth watching how many North Dallas voters actually show up to vote in the runoff. The race between Gates and Miller drove 13,534 to the polls in District 13, but it's off the board for the runoffs. Without a council race and with their two preferred candidates out of the mayoral race, turnout could dip in North Dallas.
The opposite could go for the urban core and East Dallas. Griggs, the favorite candidate of the area, made the runoff and Kingston, the three-term incumbent for District 14, is in what's sure to be a nasty runoff with real estate financier David Blewett.
No matter how you look at the numbers, it's hard to bend them in a way that makes Griggs look like a favorite. Johnson, as Griggs freely admitted Saturday night, is going to outspend him. Still, the four-term council member, as he also likes to point out, has never lost an election, despite facing incumbents in his first two council races.
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