Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is taking an unusual approach for Dallas Mayors by inserting himself into City Council election campaigns.
Thursday Johnson formally announced support for District 5 challenger Yolanda Williams against incumbent Jaime Resendez.
“Eric Johnson is the most divisive and dishonest figure in city politics in a generation. I believe his ineffective leadership and inability to garner support for his non-existent agenda during a tenure marked by dysfunction has led to this latest lapse in judgment,” Resendez said.
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The Pleasant Grove city council district Resendez represents was drawn after the 2020 census to increase the chance that an additional Latino would be elected to the council, which has never mirrored the percentage of Latino people in Dallas.
Johnson also posted tweets in recent weeks supporting challengers against two other incumbents, Adam Bazaldua and Paula Blackmon.
Bazaldua, Blackmon and Resendez all share Latino heritage.
National League of United Latino American Citizen (LULAC) President Domingo Garcia is a former Dallas City Council Member.
“It is very unusual and highly irregular for a Mayor to be involved in council races against sitting council members, incumbents, especially against Latino incumbents,” Garcia said. “For the Mayor to get involved in those races and get his money people involved, it’s divisive, counter-productive, and I think the Latino community will take notice when he comes up for election.”
Southern Methodist University Political Science Professor Cal Jillson has been watching Dallas City Hall for decades.
Jillson agreed it is not typical for Dallas Mayors to become involved in City Council election campaigns. Johnson recalled big issues like the last city budget debate in which Johnson was unable to gain support for his request to cut civilian city employee salaries to boost public safety spending.
Council Members strongly disputed the Mayor's assertion that the outcome was 'defunding' police since the department ended up with a budget increase.
“The Mayor is a member of the city council, the presiding member, but with a single vote. And this mayor, Eric Johnson, has not been able to craft a governing majority coalition on the council. So that’s the context,” Jillson said.
Equal representation and access to city government have also been important issues recently in Dallas and Jillson said Johnson’s approach on this appears counter to those.
“If you’ve got a Hispanic member of the council and Hispanics are under-represented in the City Council, you might want to foster the retention of that member. Unless again, you have a very good reason not to do that, and the Mayor apparently believes that he does,” Jillson said.
Jillson said Johnson runs another risk by trying to get members who are more to his liking.
“It’s not just that you’re going after Resendez. You’re going after his friends as well on the Council and that’s going to aggravate the divisions that are already present there,” Jillson said.
Mayor Johnson did not return messages seeking comment for this story Thursday.