North Texas

McKinney City Council Candidate Beats Odds for Victory

La'Shadion Shemwell never aspired to be in office.

"I was just a barber," Shemwell said, sitting in a chair at the barbershop in McKinney where he works.

But the 30-year-old has a new job to add to his resume: McKinney city councilman for District 1.

Shemwell ran his campaign from 1200 N. Tennessee where he lives – public housing in East McKinney.

That's where he began a youth mentoring program, now hoping his win in Saturday's run-off election will inspire children and teens living in poverty.

"If I can do it – having been arrested, being a minority, having tattoos and dreadlocks, being a poor person with all the odds against me – if I can do it, then anybody can do it," Shemwell said.

This time last year, he said, he was arrested for protesting in Arlington, and was eventually found not guilty.

"A year later, here I am. Only the second African-American in the history of the city to be a city councilman. I think it speaks volumes," Shemwell said.

City council races are non-partisan. Candidates do not have to declare if they are Democrat or Republican, but many have conservative or liberal leanings.

Shemwell said he does not identify with either party, but the Democratic support is what was instrumental in his victory.

"It is non-partisan for a reason. It's not about Democrat or Republican, it is about the betterment of the community and the city of McKinney," Shemwell added.

He said his priorities are improving infrastructure and public transportation during his time on council.

"The city of McKinney has three sides to it," Shemwell said. "You have the booming west side of McKinney, where everything is brand new. You have the historic in downtown McKinney. And then you have the neglected east McKinney, which is most of my district."

According to the city of McKinney, more than 35,000 people live in District 1, and 40 percent of them are minorities. The median household income is just over $46,000.

With so many new residents – and new voters – moving to Collin County, demographics are changing.

For Neal Katz, executive director of the Collin County Republican Party, this year's elections – and the Democratic support in local races – is a strong reminder to not be complacent and face the real possibility that the county could turn purple, even blue.

Katz said their strategy now is to energize their base.

"What happens when you have a total county that's one party is that people sit back and think, 'We don't have to do anything, just phone it in,'" Katz said. "We have to stop doing that and realize what's going on."

The last time Collin County voted for a Democratic presidential candidate was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

According to the Collin Democrats, there are an estimated six Democrats elected or currently serving locally in Collin County, including those on the Collin College Board of Trustees.

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