Grade Tom Leppert's job as Dallas mayor
NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
DALLAS - In the final hours of his incomplete term, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert told News 8 Friday he is a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Leppert announced his intentions during a Friday morning taping of Inside Texas Politics.
Elected in 2007 to a four-year term ending June 27, Leppert announced his resignation as mayor Wednesday.
Defending his early departure, he said he had accomplished what he set out to do.
"I think we bring a different perspective, a conservative approach," he said of his decision to run. "Clearly, I think I have an understanding of how the economy works. I built businesses. I created jobs. I've had to deal with spending, cutting spending on both the public and private side. And, where we are today is Washington is overspending. It's overtaxing, and as a result it's destroying jobs."
The role of a partisan candidate will be a new one for Leppert, who served without a party label and got high marks from his colleagues on the council, most of whom are Democrats, for finding consensus on most issues and doing so in a respectful accommodating way.
However, running in the primary for Hutchison's highly sought seat with GOP voters hungry for red-meat issues, such as sharply reduced spending, debt and social issues, is a whole different level for the former construction company CEO.
But, Leppert tried to show he knows how to make a sharp turn to the right.
He said he would not support earmarks in the federal budget to fund local projects. Asked if he would not support any earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers budget to fund Dallas' Trinity River project and Fort Worth's Trinity Vision plan, Leppert said, “I would not.”
"But, what I would do is put in place a budgeting system that's disciplined and can established priorities," he added. "I feel very comfortable a project like that can have the impact that will come out very, very well, but it ought to be looking at it in terms of the priorities of our entire nation.”
On curbing the costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, Leppert said everything is “on the table.” With higher taxes, fewer benefits and a later retirement age are among the options.
“First of all, you've got to put everything on the table," he said of what he would do to curb costs and spending. "If you don't address all the spending issues out there, you are not going to get your arms around it.”
However, a Leppert campaign spokesman later clarified after the taping that Leppert does not favor raising payroll taxes. He said entitlements for people in those programs today should not be changed.
On issues dear to social conservatives in Texas, Leppert said he is pro-life and would support overturning Roe v. Wade that gave women the right to abortions.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has expressed strong interest in running for the Senate nomination as well, and polls thus far show him the front runner.
Leppert clearly views Dewhurst, a multimillionaire, as the man to target, saying he would be better because saying he created jobs in the private sector and set and achieved goals as mayor such as cutting crime and spending.
Although well-known in the Dallas-Fort Worth area through earned media coverage while mayor, Leppert is unknown elsewhere in Texas. His challenge is to establish a positive image among Republican voters in GOP strongholds in the months ahead to rival Dewhurst, who is better known having run several statewide campaigns and serving as lieutenant governor since 2002.
Big city mayors have not had success in statewide races. Houston's Bill White, Austin's Kirk Watson and Dallas' Ron Kirk all ran as Democrats the past decade and lost.
But, Leppert said his race will be different with sharp focus, discipline and enough money - perhaps $7 to $10 million just for the primary - to win. Leppert, who is a millionaire, said he will put in some of his own money.
Inside Texas Politics airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on Channel 8.