FLOWER MOUND — The political future of a Denton County town is hinging on the future of natural gas operations there.
For many people in Flower Mound, their choice in next month's municipal election has become a question of whether their candidate supports a drilling moratorium.
One slate of candidates backs the moratorium; the other is firmly against it.
It started almost as a joke. Campaign volunteers for three Flower Mound candidates — Melissa Northern for Mayor; incumbent Town Council member Al Filidoro; and Council candidate Steve Lyda — began referring to them by the first letters of their last names: "N-F-L."
The initials soon caught on.
"We've had a lot of people come out and scream, "Northern! Filidoro! Lyda! NFL!" Northern said.
The "NFL slate," as it's now officially known, is the slate being backed by Flower Mound Cares, a group formed to oppose centralized gas production facilities in the town.
Vote NFL, voters are told, and the power on the Town Council will shift to permit a temporary moratorium on natural gas permits to pass.
"Simply because we want to look at the comprehensive review of oil and gas ordinance," Lyda explained.
"Mineral owners have the right to exercise their rights," Northern said. "All we're asking is to put additional safety measures on and not allow it close to our homes."
Council candidates Bryan Webb and Gerald Robinson, along with incumbent Mayor Jody Smith, are the NFL's opponents. They say they also support a review of the ordinance.
"I think all of North Texas will be watching to see what Flower Mound does next month," Webb said.
"I believe we need to have constant air monitoring," Robinson added.
But the three oppose a temporary moratorium.
"When that health and safety issue shows its head and we see facts that show it is unsafe, I'll be the first one at the podium asking for that moratorium," Mayor Smith said.
Candidates on both sides say natural gas can't be the only focus, pointing, for instance, to a need for economic development while the town manages a tight budget.
But in this election, it may be the only issue anyone's listening to.
A recent petition to let voters decide a moratorium issue recently drew more than 5,400 signatures in Flower Mound. Only around 3,000 voted in the last election.
The question now is whether those petition signers will show up to support the NFL slate on May 8.