Do We Still Have to Vote Next Week?

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Well, he did it again. Last night at a mayoral forum at Paul Quinn College, Ed Oakley boasted that his campaign has such a broad range of support that both the NAACP and Harlan Crow have endorsed him. And this time, Oakley was half right.

Setting up the most awkward moment of the mayor’s race not involving Jennifer Gale, someone passed a note to moderator Gromer Jeffers, the Dallas Morning News' estimable political columnist. Turns out, the NAACP did not endorse Oakley; the civil rights organization is not taking sides in the mayor’s race. When Jeffers announced that in the middle of the debate, Oakley didn’t know what to do.

At first, he said he didn’t recall saying that he had won the endorsement of the NAACP. Leppert eagerly corrected him: “You did,” he said. The crowd snickered a little, and Oakley stuttered, explaining that he simply misspoke. For what it’s worth, I believe him. Oakley has so many things he wants to say in the two minutes or so allotted I think he simply spoke without thinking. Of course, I’m totally speculating here. The fact is, Oakley once again said something that was not true.

Earlier this week, Oakley claimed he had the endorsement of Ricardo Medrano, which, of course, was news to Medrano. Oakley was also quoted telling The Morning News that Don Hill endorsed him -- which, eventually, he did, if by endorse you mean he told people to vote for Oakley’s opponent, Tom Leppert. We’re getting to the point now where if Oakley said that his mother endorsed him, I’d call her to verify.

Oakley’s false claims aside, it’s his spin of Hill’s endorsement that may wind up hurting him the most. Oakley told The Morning News that Hill wanted three payments of $250,000 each in exchange for his support. The Hill camp has adamantly denied ever asking for money, donations, a paid consultant gig, a ride to the airport, a stick of gum, you name it. I talked to Oakley before the forum, however, and he stuck with his story.

He said that Hill briefed his campaign on a 10-point action plan he has for the Southern sector and Dallas in general. That action plan also included getting some action for Hill’s advisors, Oakley claimed.

“Part of the plan was working with his team, implied or not,” Oakley told Unfair Park.

Of course, last night shows that Oakley has trouble keeping his facts straight. Which is a shame, because when he’s not out there making demonstrably false claims that can be refuted publicly in a matter of minutes, Oakley can be an attractive candidate. Unlike Leppert, who could speak for two hours without hitting on a detail on governing or policy, Oakley can tell you everything about how the city council works, from specific budget lines in a 2003 bond program to zoning battles he took part in 14 years ago.

I’m convinced a Dallas resident can tell him what street he lives on and Oakley can tell him how old the sewers are and when they’re scheduled for replacement. If local government was biochemistry, Ed Oakley would be Linus Pauling. But Ed…in case you’re reading this, Pauling died in 1994. So don’t go claiming he endorsed you.

A few other notes from last night’s forum:

As a moderator, Gromer Jeffers makes Jim Lehrer look like Sam Kinison. Easy-going and well-versed on the issues, Jeffers knows how to keep a debate crisp and civil, going so far as to get out of his seat and tap the candidates on the shoulder when they ran past their allotted time. My favorite Jeffers moment came at the end of the forum, when the audience had its chance to quiz the candidates.

A lady nearly as old as Max Wells wanted to ask Leppert and Oakley not one but two questions, and it was clear from her elaborate preamble she intended to stay around the microphone for a while. Jeffers kindly but firmly denied her request, and as she finished her first question, he looked at her directly, making it clear to the lady and everyone else that a follow-up question would not be well-advised. She listened and moved to her seat.

Here’s a Leppert quote the Oakley campaign can take out of context: “I don’t want to see Dallas do well; I don’t want to see Dallas improve.”

Actually since there’s a decent chance the Oakley people will actually take me up on that and use the above statement on a mailer, here’s the full Leppert quote: “I don’t want to see Dallas do well; I don’t want to see Dallas improve. I want Dallas to take a quantum leap.”

If Don Hill were at last night’s forum, he would have blushed. Even though he endorsed Leppert, Oakley mentioned the former mayoral candidate a half a dozen or so times, typically boasting how the two of them often worked hand in hand on the council. Leppert, of course, gladly talked about how Hill endorsed him. “Don told me the day before he was going to endorse me,” Leppert said. “He based it on leadership; he based it on accountability.”

Single Mom Tally: Once again Tom Leppert mentioned last night he was raised by a single mom, bringing the overall tally so far during the 2007 mayor’s race to 329,223. I feel like I’m witnessing history here.

Not to give Carol Reed any ideas, but Tom Leppert’s message is so vague and generic that she could probably photocopy it for clients in about 10 other cities. (See above “quantum leap” quote.) --Matt Pulle

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