Queen Crank

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"You started hearing the mayor denigrating her...then the rest of the campaign picked up the attack message," Blumer recalls.

"Campaigns always come down not only to message but to messenger; I think we had the better messenger," says Carol Reed, referring to the mayor. "Sharon wasn't easy to listen to. The sports talk shows ended up making incredible fun of her. They didn't need to do that. But she set herself up for a lot."

There was talk of a lack of humor, a whiny demeanor, her piercing voice. And as the campaign wore on, Boyd's shortcomings on the stump became a matter of discussion even in her own camp. "Sharon brought a lot of energy to the campaign, but people were turned off by her abrasiveness," says Greg Mullen, an apartment owner and manager who set up the campaign's Web site. "They thought we could get the same point across without bringing in the personalities.

"There was this meeting about it, and I expressed my view that I didn't want the voters to miss the message. She was becoming a distraction. We encouraged her to take a lower profile. She didn't," Mullen adds.

Boyd says she would have been happy to let someone else handle the speaking engagements, but nobody else stepped up. "It was not fun being the target of their meanness, of being the target of little jerks like [former Mavericks announcer and radio talk-show host] Kevin McCarthy. God, I despise that little sawed-off runt. He's a spokesman for the Mavericks, and he used his show to say these vicious things. All the sportscasters were using their air time to ridicule our cause, although I'd exclude Dale Hansen. He did his best to be more fair and level about it."

By most accounts, Boyd was all her side had. Laura Miller was evolving from Dallas Observer columnist to council candidate and joined the opposition late in the campaign. Blumer's husband had health problems, which limited her role. None of the small-business operators -- car-rental outfits and a mobile-home builder -- were experienced enough to step up.

"None of us are politicians, and some of the business people I talked to said you can't be a business leader in Dallas and fight these people," says Dave Capps, owner of Capps Van & Car Rental, which donated offices, billboards, and $20,000 to the campaign. "Some people say if she had not taken such a hard line, we would have done better. I think she did the best she could. She did it from the heart."

In the end, Capps says, the proponents had the money to mobilize young, nontraditional city voters in the Village and elsewhere, and if they lost the last one, they would have come back with another plan the next year.

Reed's analysis of the vote found that the proposal lost among people who regularly vote in Dallas city elections. In the two years since, Reed says, she has consulted on other campaigns in which voters are being asked to approve money for arenas -- most recently in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the hockey team proposed and passed an arena deal last year. "These things are always gonna be close, and the goal is to move past the fact that these guys are rich. You have rich people asking for public money."

In other words, Boyd was right to hit the "robber baron" theme. It was the intangibles -- her lack of political charisma -- that hurt.

Miller, who went on from the anti-arena effort to gain a seat on the council, says people are wrong to focus on why Boyd fell short. "There is not any other single person in the city that I know that created the amount of excitement over an issue like Sharon did with the arena," she says. "I've never seen the city so engaged in debate and angry. It was exciting, and that was all Sharon."

With no campaigns to fight and no races to run, Boyd has been outside the city's power curve and struggling to make an impact in the years since.

"She's such a junkie. Hardly a Wednesday will pass when I don't have a call on my answering machine and it's Sharon," says Miller, who says she's a regular visitor to Boyd's retooled and frequently updated Web site.

The Web site, a lawsuit, and a bitter split with several old political friends have occupied Boyd since, and she's gotten grouchier and crankier and more personal than ever. "I'm not running for anything, so it's not about me," she says, talking in the somber conference room of one of her law-firm clients. "It's not about 'Please love me.'"

Her performance may amuse her friends, but it has her old allies wondering what she can possibly hope to accomplish. "She needs to get the emotion out of it, and I've told her that," Capps says. "She makes it easier for people to discount her. If you want to do it from the heart, fantastic, but you can go about things a little softer and gentler."

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