Four Races to Watch On a Largely Barren DFW Election Slate

Most of the good stuff already happened in the primary. Since North Texas' local and federal electoral districts are so gerrymandered, the real election fights are usually of the intra-party variety and happen in the spring.

DFW does not have a single competitive U.S. House race, and both of Texas' U.S. Senate seats aren't even on the ballot. At the local level, there is a tremendous dearth of competitive races in the Texas House and Senate. Still, there are reasons to pay attention to what else is going on at the local level in North Texas. Here are four things on the ballot that deserve attention as early voting begins this week.

1. The Rangers' new stadium deal. — Conventional wisdom says that the Rangers are going to get the $500 million they want from the city of Arlington for a new, retractable roof stadium to replace the 22-year-old Globe Life Park. Cities simply don't shoot down stadium deals and Arlington needs the Rangers, who serve as one of the twin cornerstones of the city's main entertainment district along with the Dallas Cowboys. Nevertheless, Arlington residents have shown a high level of frustration with continuing to pay the tax they're currently paying to finance their part of Jerryworld indefinitely to build the Rangers' air-conditioned paradise.

The only public poll of Arlington voters on the stadium referendum, conducted by WFAA and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram showed a 42-42 split on the issue, with 16 percent of voters undecided. Fifty-seven percent of poll respondents said that the Rangers did not need a new stadium.

2. Dallas tries to fix its civilian pension fund. — If you vote in the city of Dallas, you're going to see a referendum about pensions on your ballot. If you've been paying casual attention, you might think the referendum is an attempt to do something about Dallas' woefully underfunded police and fire pension system. It isn't.

Instead, Proposition 1 is an effort to fix the city's civilian pension plan before it finds itself in a similar state. Through changes to how benefits are calculated and raising the city's retirement age from 60 to 65, supporters of the referendum believe the city can save $2.5 billion and keep the Employee Retirement Fund solvent heading into the future. The changes would only apply to employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2017.

3. The big show: Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton. — Despite the state being competitive in a presidential election for the first time in four decades, the outcome of the top of the ticket contest in Texas isn't likely to be important. If Hillary Clinton wins the state, it will be because she has likely racked up such a large margin nationally that Texas tips its purple hand a couple of decades too early. Still, Dallas County especially is a place where Clinton can expect to run up huge margins.

More than 58,000 Dallas County voters showed up for the first day of early voting on Monday, more than 20,000 more than showed up in 2008 or 2012. Given President Obama's tremendous margins in the county in those two elections, continued big turnout in Dallas — and Texas' other large, blue cities — could bode well for Clinton.

4. Dallas' single competitive Texas House race. — Lakewood's Ken Sheets is one of the Texas House's most vulnerable incumbents. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Sheets ousted incumbent Democrat Allen Vaught in 2010. In 2012, a presidential year, he won only 50.8 percent of the vote and barely held on to beat Democrat Robert Miklos, who received 49.2 percent of the vote. He's being challenged by Democratic challenger Victoria Neave, a lawyer Sheets has accused of defending violent criminals and using the proceeds to buy a large house outside of their shared Texas House district. Neave has, in turn, tried to connect Sheets to Texas CPS crisis pointing to a 2015 vote he made against creating maximum caseloads for CPS caseworkers. 

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