Election Day in N. Texas: Sparring incumbents, liquor sales and landmark mayoral races

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by MATT GOODMAN & MARJORIE OWENS

WFAA

Posted on May 11, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Updated Saturday, May 11 at 11:02 PM

Voters across North Texas trickled to the polls on Election Day Saturday –– some took part in Richardson’s first mayoral election in almost 60 years while others in Plano chose whether to allow the sale of liquor. 

In Dallas, voters in Oak Cliff chose between two council incumbents pitted against one another after District 1 was redrawn. Both found their permanent residences inside it. In East Dallas, voters looked down a crowded ballot of seven candidates vying to replace well-liked and outspoken Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who’s leaving because of term limits.

In southeast Fort Worth, voters decided whether they would accept a former councilwoman back after she vacated her post mid-term for a failed congressional run (they didn’t). 

Two Dallas investors who own land in East Texas catapulted a typically low interest race for three open positions on the Tarrant Regional Water District board. 

These are some of the more interesting storylines from Saturday’s election. Read more about these races and get election results from all of our surrounding counties at this link

Dallas Council Place 1

When District 1 was redrawn in 2012, council incumbents Scott Griggs and Delia Jasso both ended up living inside it. The two North Oak Cliff residents faced off Saturday night for the seat. Griggs, District 3’s councilman since 2011, jumped out to a quick lead and didn’t look back –– with 12 of 28 precincts reporting, Griggs had a 20 percent lead over Jasso: 1,897 to 1,250. 

After redistricting, 74 percent of voters in District 1 are Hispanic. Jasso, who has been honored by the National Diversity Council, vowed to focus on transportation projects, LGBT issues and infrastructure improvement. She boasts endorsements from the Dallas Police and Firefighters associations while Griggs has earned the backing of the Black Firefighters Association, the Dallas Morning News. He also claims an endorsement from the Dallas Police Association. 

The 38-year-old lawyer is an outspoken critic of urban gas drilling who, in his one term, has championed neighborhood improvement projects in his former Oak Cliff and West Dallas area district. 

Dallas Council Place 13

In the race to replace councilwoman Ann Margolin in District 13, two candidates quickly jumped out of the field of four, as many expected. They’re Jennifer Staubach Gates, the daughter of famed Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, and Leland Burke, a businessman who earned the endorsement of departing councilwoman Margolin. 

By the time early votes were tallied, Staubach Gates took a commanding lead. With 21 of 45 precincts reporting, she had double the votes of her opponent –– 5,189 to 2,738.  At about 9:15 p.m., Burk conceded the race. 

The race to represent a prominent swath of North Dallas is the city’s most expensive: Staubach Gates raised more than $400,000 while her opponent pulled in roughly $160,000. 

She’s won the endorsement of community figures such as Ebby Halliday and billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, as well as former Mayor Tom Leppert and Republican state Senator John Carona. Burk, who ran a campaign promoting his business experience and participation in community groups, earned endorsements from former Mayor Laura Miller and mayoral candidates Ron Natinsky and Ed Oakley. 

Dallas Council Place 14 

After serving eight years on the Dallas City Council, Angela Hunt, the familiar face representing East Dallas' District 14, is vacating her council seat because of term limits. Among those looking to fill the void are three attorneys, a real estate professional, a community volunteer  a chiropractor and a financial advisor. 

Leading the pack with 13 of 43 precincts reporting are Bobby Abtahi and Philip Kingston. They'll be headed to a runoff, as neither was able to garner more than 50 percent of the vote. 

Kingston, who is currently in the lead and backed by Hunt herself, is endorsed by The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Police Association and the Dallas Fire Fighters Association. The lawyer touts his work that spurred the Lower Greenville Planned Development District and the preservation of the Belmont Addition. 

Candidate Bobby Abtahi also has some familiar political backing, with endorsements from several former city council members, including Craig Holcomb, of Turtle Creek, and Craig McDaniel, of Oak Lawn. During his campaign, the prosecutor promoted his work on code and zoning cases he said led to a 26 percent drop in crime in some areas of Dallas. He also backed a Texas National Guard program that targeted known drug houses for demolition.

Fort Worth Council Place 8 

In 2012, then-councilwoman Kathleen Hicks vacated her seat to run for the Democratic nomination for Fort Worth’s 33rd Congressional District. 

She didn’t win and decided to try and return to the council. However, the youngest woman to ever be elected to a Fort Worth council seat won’t be returning. With all 25 precincts reporting, Hicks lost to Kelly Allen Gray by a margin of just under 200 votes. 

Gray, the incumbent, took over the spot Hicks vacated in the middle of her term. She told KERA that she hoped to win the election and serve a full term. She voted against hiking water rates in the city and said she created a citizens’ task force to ID city service problems such as unmowed vacant lots and broken streetlights. 

She’ll have a chance to continue her public service minded strategy in her southeast Fort Worth district. However, as the Fort Worth Star Telegram has reported, she’ll have to overcome a common criticism from her constituents: That she can’t vote on certain issues because her husband is a 21-year police veteran, meaning she has to recuse herself from voting on the contentious pension and police contract. 

Tarrant Regional Water Board

Once drawing votes in the low hundreds, the Tarrant Regional Water District Board election drew about 9,000 votes.

What brought out so many voters? According to Fort Worth Star-Telegram political writer Bud Kennedy, 'Big money, coming from two investors in Dallas who own land in East Texas in the way of the integrated pipeline to bring water to Dallas and Fort Worth.'

In a Thursday report on the election, News 8's Jim Douglas said while those land owners can't vote in the election, their interest comes from decisions by the board that could affect a water pipeline route. Three challengers, Mary Kelleher, John Basham and Timothy Nold, stepped up with about $250,000 in campaign backing to face incumbents, with seven candidates in all. 

Those three names were in the lead Saturday night.

Plano's Mayoral Race, Liquor Vote 

It was a historical election in Plano, as the city elected its first black mayor. Voters also appeared poised Saturday night to allow the sale of liquor in stores within the Plano city limit, which previously only allowed the sale of beer and wine.

With 67 percent of early voters supporting the move, it appears the move to go "wet," which was spurred by a petition presented to the city, will be a go.

Collin County Republican Party Chair Fred Moses and former City Council member Harry LaRosiliere went head-to-head for the mayor position. However, while it's an historic moment for the city, neither Moses nor LaRosiliere heavily focused on the subject. They said it's just another indicator of the diversity growth with the city over the last decade.

"Plano's diversity is actually one of its greatest assets," LaRosiliere told WFAA's Teresa Woodard in an interview Monday. "If you look at the multicultural fabric of this city, it's a wonderful thing to see."

"A lot of us, our kids grew up here, enjoyed each other's company," Moses said. "Kids are a lot more accepting. They taught us acceptance. They don't care about color."

While there were still ballots yet to be counted, at 10:15 p.m. LaRosiliere led 59 percent to 41 percent.

"THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!" read a 9:17 p.m. post on Harry LaRosiliere's "4 Mayor of Plano" Facebook page. "The new Mayor of Plano is Harry LaRosiliere!!!!!!" 

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