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Dallas mayor Eric Johnson says he’ll seek reelection

By Gromer Jeffers Jr. and Everton Bailey Jr.

News conference
News conference by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and other political figures in Dallas on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, to urge Dallas voters to approve an election proposition to help pay for a new convention center. The mayor announced Friday he is running again. / Photo Credit: Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer


Eric Johnson said Friday that he’ll seek reelection next year as Dallas mayor.

“I’m absolutely going to run for reelection for mayor of the City of Dallas,” Johnson said during a segment for Sunday’s edition of Lone Star Politics, a political show produced by KXAS (NBC 5) and The Dallas Morning News.
“There’s no way I’m not running.”
Johnson, a former state representative, was first elected in 2019.
“I’m very concerned that the gains we’ve made in those three areas are not guaranteed,” Johnson said. “And if you don’t have someone in the mayor’s office that prioritizes public safety the way I have, and prioritizes tax cuts the way I have, and prioritizes ethics reform, all of these gains can be reversed.”
Johnson said he couldn’t predict whether he would have a major opponent next year. Former Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is considering a bid for mayor.
“This is not 2019,” Johnson said, when asked about a potential challenge from Hinojosa. “The City of Dallas has a mayor. And I think the City of Dallas has a mayor that people understand is doing a great job.”
Polling in June showed Johnson would have had a slight edge over Hinojosa. But a third of 500 respondents said they were undecided about who they would vote for.
Hinojosa said Friday that he’s still on the fence over whether to run for Dallas mayor and doesn’t plan to make an announcement until after the November elections.
“I’m still talking to people,” said Hinojosa, who resigned as Dallas schools superintendent in July after leading the district for a decade. “I know it would be a challenge trying to unseat an incumbent, but I’m still certainly thinking about it.”
He said he was already anticipating that Johnson would run for re-election and that the official announcement has not swayed him either way.
“I’ve just gotta decide if I jump in, when do I jump in?” Hinojosa said.
“Fundraising is going to be a challenge no matter what.”
The filing deadline for the May 6 ballot is in February.
Dallas has never had a Hispanic mayor. Hispanic residents are the city’s largest ethnic group and make up 42% of the population.
But Clayton P. Henry, a political consultant who managed the 2011 mayoral campaign of former Dallas police chief David Kunkle, said Johnson is heavily favored to win reelection.
“It’s going to be difficult for anyone to beat him,” Henry said. “He would have to stumble greatly or have some sort of scandal. I don’t see Eric Johnson as damaged in any way.”
Henry said that it would be tough for Hinojosa or any other contender to develop a reason “to change horses.”
“What is the issue? What would be the reason to vote him out?” Henry asked.
The re-election campaign announcement from the first-term mayor comes as little surprise.
Johnson has been raising funds since at least the summer, including at a June event organized through the Friends of Mayor Eric Johnson committee that was held to celebrate his third year in office.
Listed members of the group’s steering committee include real estate developer Harlan Crow, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, State Sen. Royce West, State Rep. Toni Rose, Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch, Bishop T.D. Jakes, NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, retired NBA player Dirk Nowitzki and boxer Errol Spence Jr.
In July, Johnson reported more than $331,000 in contributions collected through the first six months of 2022, spending more than $27,000 and still having over $875,000 banked.
Donors included $10,000 each from chairman and CEO of Sewell Motor Co. Carl Sewell, investor Ross Perot Jr. and tax consulting firm head G. Brint Ryan. Other contributors include $5,000 each from Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, investor Darwin Deason and his conservative activist donor son Doug Deason. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk is listed as giving Johnson $1,000 and former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, $250.
Another $1,000 each is listed from political action committees for Southwest Airlines and WSP USA Inc., an engineering and design firm hired by the city to plan a redevelopment of the downtown convention center and the surrounding area.
Mayoral incumbents rarely lose. A review of voting results over the last 90 years shows any sitting Dallas mayor who has run for reelection has won. Dallas mayors can only serve two consecutive four-year terms.
During his three years in office, Johnson has faced the COVID-19 pandemic, spikes in violent crime and public clashes with his elected colleagues on the City Council, while largely promoting public safety and economic development initiatives and trying to forge relationships with several international dignitaries.
He has talked about goals of wanting to increase Dallas’ global commerce, tourism and cultural ties to other countries, including his office considering establishing foreign trade offices in the city. Representatives from China, Finland, France, Mexico and Tanzania have been among those Johnson has hosted at either City Hall or elsewhere in the metroplex this year in an effort to strengthen partnerships.
Johnson has regularly pushed for increasing the police department’s budget, helped lead the effort for stronger city ethics rules and the creation of an office to handle city corruption complaints, and named volunteer appointees to help come up with ways to improve job opportunities, skill training and business opportunities for residents.
He clashed frequently with fellow city elected leaders, leading to questions about his leadership, particularly in 2020, over proposals related to the police budget. Johnson repeatedly called for the salaries of City Manager T.C. Broadnax and other top city administrative officials to be cut amid the pandemic, but his proposal to do so failed. He accused his colleagues of not being transparent with the public, and his council colleagues have accused him of not communicating with them.
Several council members said he refused to talk with them outside of city meetings and emailed memos.
Johnson also publicly rooted against some council incumbents during last year’s election, throwing his support behind some challengers who ultimately lost their council seat bids. Council member Jaime Resendez, who faced a mayor-backed challenger, last year called Johnson “the most divisive and combative political figure in city politics in a generation.”
A shift appeared to begin after that election. His 2021 state of the city address was filled with acknowledgements of the other members of the city council and calls for them all to work together and “get back to basics.” Johnson barely mentioned his fellow elected leaders the year before.
Recently, Johnson formed a new council committee to examine ways to keep and recruit sports teams based in Dallas, helped spearhead new plans to decrease blight in southern Dallas, and increase franchise business ownership among residents.
In June, he publicly took a lead role in an effort to fire City Manager T.C. Broadnax.
Johnson and other council members had cited long-running issues with the city’s permitting system, 911 call center and information technology office and other problems as reasons to oust Broadnax after five years.
After majority support on the council to fire the city manager faded, Broadnax and Johnson announced a truce and vowed to work more closely together to address long-running city issues such as delays in issuing building permits and poor city data oversight.
The council ultimately approved giving Broadnax a raise last month. Johnson was among five votes against the idea.
Lone Star Politics airs Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAS (NBC 5).
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