Queen Crank

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Boyd, displaying her usual brio, says the snub was mostly personal. "Lori apparently had some problems with another woman succeeding her," she says. "She also had congressional aspirations that McDaniel's supporters might have helped her base." As for the substance of the charge, she says, "I used to be on the team. I backed projects and tried to go along. They were the big guys with all the insight us mere mortals couldn't possibly muster. After you get a chance to see how wrong they can be, you realize that they're just shooting from the hip."

Without the endorsement, Boyd had an uphill fight in a nasty five-way race. When she accused McDaniel of raising "special-interest money" from national gay groups, Boyd was branded -- completely falsely, she says -- as antigay. "At least a third of the people who worked on my campaign were gay," she says. Then, someone mailed an anonymous -- and therefore illegal -- campaign flier to Democrats in the district touting Boyd as a "family values" Republican in the nonpartisan race. Boyd did well enough to force a runoff but lost it by nearly two to one.

"She was so savagely treated during that race," recalls Marsha Drebelbis, a Junius Heights neighborhood advocate. "I think after she lost that runoff, she set her jaw and said, 'OK, no holds barred.'"

As a result of the campaign and her Plan Commission days, Boyd became to some of her supporters a sort of shadow council member, someone to call when you're trying to navigate your way through city bureaucracy. "I'd call her when I'd need help. She's very knowledgeable about code violations procedures, on street closings, and just about anything," says Willetta Stellmacher, who until recently owned several apartments and rent houses in East Dallas. A former chorus girl now in her 80s, Stellmacher boasts about having arrested 39 burglars on her own in the space of one year -- an eccentric pistol-packing mama sort to whom Boyd gravitated.

With these pockets of support in the district, Boyd went for a rematch with McDaniel in 1995 and was drubbed again. "It was devastating. We'd worked so hard," says Boyd, brushing a strand of bottle-blonde hair from her face. "I just had to realize this was not gonna be what I was going to do with my life."

In late 1997, around the time it became clear the Dallas City Council was going to approve the idea of providing investors and team owners Tom Hicks and Ross Perot Jr. with $125 million in public money for their new arena, Councilwoman Donna Blumer got a phone call. It was Boyd, itching to put up a fight.

Only two council members, Blumer and former Councilman Bob Stimson, had voted against the plan to raise the arena money through "tourist taxes" -- surcharges on rental cars and hotel rooms.

"I said, 'Oh, Sharon, they're gonna do anything and everything; they will spend any amount of money and pull out all the stops to fight it.' She said, 'So? We'll fight back.'"

Boyd began calling people whose names Blumer passed on. An opposition force quickly jelled. "I was amazed at Sharon's energy," Blumer says. They had planned to use Boyd's condo for an early organizational meeting of their group, It's A Bad Deal!, but so many people showed up that they had to move out to the parking lot.

Over the course of the three-month campaign, in which the sports teams chipped in $2.5 million and arena forces outspent the opposition 28 to 1, Boyd emerged as the principal spokeswoman and architect of the campaign. Fairly or not, her style and bottom-line message became as much of an issue as anything else.

"There's this group of rich people who see public money as their private kitty," she says now. "I don't mind paying for someone else's health care at Parkland, but I do mind paying for someone else's entertainment, for some playpen for millionaires."

Boyd framed the vote as a giveaway to people who could afford to pay their own way, to "fat cats" and "robber barons." The proponents turned around the rhetoric, characterizing Boyd as an "aginner" who opposed such things as DART, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, and the airport. False, false, and false, Boyd says.

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