All 14 Dallas City Council seats are contested in Saturday’s municipal election with three of them open due to term-limited incumbents.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is not on the ballot since he is only halfway through a four-year term. But Johnson is attempting to influence the election with endorsements or at least tweets of support for three challengers of incumbent members.
With seven challengers, District 7 incumbent Adam Bazaldua has drawn the most opposition of any incumbent and is also one of Johnson’s targets for defeat.
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“For too long, District 7 has had leaders that just do what the Mayor wants them to. That's not why District 7 elected me. We elected a change,” Bazaldua said.
District 7 has tremendous racial and economic diversity. It includes modest neighborhoods near Dallas Fair Park and middle class areas like Buckner Terrace.
Strong passion in the district is how Bazaldua explains seven people choosing to run against him.
“I think that there is a huge sense of community and pride when it comes to South Dallas and southern Dallas communities,” Bazaldua said. “We need people who want to be passionate and engaged and willing to devote the amount of time that a campaign takes.”
His opponents include Tramonica Brown, Changa Higgins, Calvin D. Johnson, James Turknett, and Israel Varela.
Former Councilman Kevin Felder who Bazaldua defeated two years ago is running again. Mayor Eric Johnson has endorsed Donald Parish Junior, a minister.
Dallas Morning News Political Writer Gromer Jeffers said Johnson is taking a chance by endorsing opponents of incumbents.
“There's a lot at stake when you put your name to endorse these candidates because if you lose that opens up another whole set of problems,” Jeffers said.
Johnson is making a gamble in hope of gaining enough city council votes for his own agenda at city hall, Jeffers said.
“He hasn't been able to count to eight. He doesn't have a working, reliable coalition on the council and he's going to need that,” Jeffers said. “If he doesn’t, he’s going to have a long second half of his term.”
A key issue Johnson and others have pushed with voters is the claim of ‘defunding’ police in the wake of last year’s demonstrations seeking more social programs. The city council included $32 million for new programs in the budget approved last fall. Against Johnson’s wishes, $7 million was trimmed from police overtime.
“The Dallas Police Department was definitely not defunded. The police budget grew year over year,” Bazaldua said. “The majority of the council definitely saw eye to eye on our budget.”
Jeffers said the Saturday election will test Johnson’s influence and may help determine what sort of public safety Dallas voters want.
“Maybe they want to reimagine police funding. We'll see with this election,” Jeffers said.
Dallas voters will also consider two referendums on qualifications for members to serve on appointed city boards and commissions.