If you’ve read my weekly rankings of the mayoral candidates, you know I go to great lengths to diminish my own credibility. I have described the poll as both “unofficial” and “unreliable.” I have written that I have trouble paying attention to certain candidates. And I have suggested that you, Dear Friend of Unfair Park, would be better off guessing the order in which the candidates will finish rather than relying on my research.
Still, I am heartened to learn that at least one candidate takes my rankings very seriously: Council member Ed Oakley, who is one of the candidates I have confessed to ignoring, says on this Web site that we ranked him first in one of our polls a few weeks back. Since then, we’ve dropped Oakley to fourth and talked about how he seems to be losing momentum with his conflict-of-interest issues with the Trinity River project. But there’s no mention of that.
Anyhow, we’ll have another “unofficial” and “unreliable” mayoral poll at the end of today. Till then, here's a reader's guide to our latest findings. And let me say, there are but four candidates I think I have a perfect read on: Ed Okpa, Roger Herrera, John Cappello and Jennifer Gale.
Here are the candidates I may be overrating: Don Hill and Tom Leppert.They’re both good public speakers who have done well at the 10 or so mayoral forums I’ve attended. They make a strong impression -- unlike say, Gary Griffith. I don’t know if I’m putting too much emphasis on that, though. I think these forums are a Malcolm Gladwell wet dream and that the few people who attend will spread the word about how each of the candidates performed. But if I’m wrong on that, I may be wrong on Hill and Leppert.
Here are the candidates I may be underrating: Gary Griffith, Darrell Jordan and Max Wells. Like Leppert, I’m a rather new arrival to Dallas, so I’m not exactly steeped in the aura of Darrell Jordan. He has a lot of die-hard supporters, which is odd since he’s never held public office and the last time he ran for public office, he got trounced. In this campaign, he has said nothing to distinguish himself from the pack of old, boring white males. Initially, he flirted with Sam Coats’ position on the Trinity River project but backed down after a week or so. But people like Jordan. They really, really like him. I don’t know if that’s enough to win an election, but Jordan seems to think it is.
As for Gary Griffith, he is not even trying to run a broad campaign, choosing instead to pick his spots -- Lakewood, East Dallas, Lake Highlands, North Dallas Republicans -- in order to cobble enough votes to make the runoff. He is an afterthought at a lot of these forums, preferring to talk about “cheese” or community meetings in his Lakewood district. He never says anything remotely controversial, and I can’t think of a big issue --Trinity River, ethics, police, Southern sector development -- where he has said something substantially different than anyone else. I don’t know how Griffith has used this campaign to pick up new voters, but unlike every other candidate in the race, sans Oakley and Hill, Griffith went into this campaign with a reliable bloc of supporters. If signs vote, Griffith will make the runoff.
Like Tom Leppert, Max Wells is making a very determined effort to do well in the Southern sector and has picked up the endorsement of several black politicos, among them John Wiley Price and former council member Don Hicks. I’m guessing those endorsements won’t matter much, but if I’m wrong and if the Price machine finally comes through (note, it hasn’t in a while), then Wells could easily make the runoff. You see a lot of signs for him in his old Lake Highlands District too.
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Here are the candidate I am completely guessing on: Sam Coats and Ed Oakley. No matter where in the top seven Coats finishes, I wouldn’t be surprised. I think he has distinguished himself from the pack by his pro-Trinity Parkway referendum stance, which is emblematic of his independent take on other issues, from historical preservation (he talks about it) to Southern sector development. (He wants to think long-long-term.). His support of Hunt’s referendum has garnered him more attention than candidates like Griffith, Jordan and Wells. But for all I know, the opposition to the 493-lane toll road isn’t as pitched as I think. After all, I work at the Dallas Observer. It’s possible I have a warped view on popular opinion on that subject.
I’ll say this: If Hunt’s petition gets 30,000 votes, Coats will make the runoff. That’s the one prediction I will make with confidence.
Like Hill and Griffith, Oakley is a popular council member who probably started off this race with 10,000 votes. I just don’t know what Oakley has done during this campaign to pick up new supporters. But since Oakley was kind enough to give Unfair Park a shout-out on a political Web site, we’d like to return the favor and give him a blurb he can use for his own purposes:
“Ed Oakley has a smile that could light a room. And often it does. Sometimes, during the council meetings, when his colleagues are trying to understand why the toll road is $592 trillion over budget, Oakley will merely flash his pearly whites. Everyone then feels better, and the show goes on.” --Matt Pulle