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District 3: 5 fight to replace Casey Thomas in southern Dallas

A business owner, air force vet, legislative adviser, mechanic and retired social studies teacher vie for seat.

Casey Thomas
Dallas City Council Member for District 3 Casey Thomas, whose term has expired, helped champion the city’s adoption of a racial equity plan.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

By Leah Waters

The general election for Dallas mayor and the City Council is May 6. This is one of several stories giving voters an overview of the races for the 15 seats ahead of the beginning of the early voting period, which runs from April 24 to May 2.

Five Dallas City Council candidates are vying to replace District 3 councilmember Casey Thomas, who during four terms helped champion the city’s adoption of a racial equity plan.

The sprawling district is marked by a history of neglect from both public dollars and private investments. Dallas’ farthest southwest district, it’s home to the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve and the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

Missing from the district is a single quality, name-brand grocery store, Thomas said. The Cash Saver stores throughout the district aren’t enough to feed a growing and diverse community that wants more restaurants, retail and entertainment options.

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Thomas, who is ineligible to run after serving four consecutive two-year terms, has overseen the revitalization of Red Bird mall and other shopping centers throughout a community that often laments vacant storefronts. But whomever steps into Thomas’ spot will have a battle yet to win, he said.

“District 3 goes against every stereotype that you think of when people think of southern Dallas,” Thomas said. “We have one of the lowest crime rates in the city of Dallas, and one of the highest homeownership rates in the city of Dallas. And all factors that are attractive to private development. But this perception still exists.”

District 3′s reported crimes so far this year are about half those reported in other districts with higher rates, according to Dallas police’s crime statistics dashboard.

Nearly every candidate in the diverse pool for District 3 says they are running to help bring much-needed attention to their area of the city.

Denise Benavides

Benavides, 41, is a first-generation Mexican American, mother of four children and small business owner. Her husband is a mechanic, and she’s a licensed car dealer.

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Benavides served on the board of the Grand Prairie Hispanic Chamber 10 years ago, which ignited her passion for community work. She is now on the board of the Dallas chapter of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas.

Denise Benavides
Denise Benavides(Denise Benavides)

She ran against Thomas in 2019 but dropped out of the race when she found out she was pregnant with her third child.

Benavides said her bilingual skills and connection to the growing Spanish-speaking community are assets. Her list of campaign goals includes luring more restaurants to the district, increasing engagement with citizens and making sure infrastructure projects get done faster.

“We need somebody new and with new ideas, and that’s what I come with, a case of new ideas,” Benavides said.

August Doyle

An Air Force veteran and 52-year resident of District 3, Doyle managed warehouses for Tom Thumb for 15 years and worked as a distributor of the Dallas Times Herald before it folded.

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Doyle, 74, worked for the city of Dallas more than 20 years, many as a code inspector and was once in charge of all the city’s street lights and thoroughfares. A round of layoffs in which he got a pink slip sparked a desire to improve the city’s fiscal responsibility. He said he’s running for office “to make sure that the money is spent wisely.” Doyle ran for council in 1983 and 1985.

He said he’d focus on reducing the city’s crime and homelessness, as well as ensuring the city gets every penny owed in federal funds focused on infrastructure projects.

August Doyle
August Doyle(August Doyle)

District 3 is ripe for investment, Doyle said, and he hopes to usher in more business.

“I live in the southern part of Dallas,” he said. “We have no major venue here. Anytime you want something for entertainment, you got to go to the suburbs, or go across the Trinity River. It’s like the tale of the two cities. No money has been invested over here.”

Zarin Gracey

Gracey, councilman Thomas’ legislative adviser, is running for the District 3 spot to continue economic development work started by his predecessor.

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“I will also continue to fight for equity,” said Gracey, a first-time council candidate, an executive pastor and longtime civil servant.

Gracey, 46, and his wife have lived in Dallas for 20 years, according to his election application. He wants to see District 3 flourish, with the district’s misplaced warehouses and vacant properties becoming a home for economic prosperity and community health.

He says he has the administrative experience as a policy wonk, which will reduce the learning curve new councilmembers often face. He is a former assistant director of economic development for Dallas and a former board member of the Dallas Public Facility Corporation.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot that I don’t know,” Gracey said. “But I do know how to get things done because of the relationships and leadership roles I’ve had within the city.”

John Sims

A West Dallas native with generational roots in North Texas, Sims said his family has always been poor. He grew up in a military family, was raised by a single parent, and has worked as a mechanic for years. Sims, 34, said he loves to volunteer for school and toy drives and is involved in coaching youth sports.

He’s a first-time council candidate who wants to see the city focus more on the basics, like infrastructure projects and retaining police officers, and less on entertainment venues. He says his five-year experience as the president of his homeowners association taught him a lot about helping the community.

John Sims
John Sims(John Sims)

“We didn’t move forward with any foreclosures or evictions during my term,” Sims said. “I think you have to be compassionate when you’re in a position to affect other people’s lives. … Everybody falls on hard times. And when it happens, you hope somebody’s going to be looking out for you.”

Joe Tave

A retired lifelong social studies educator, Tave, 77, is a 30-year Dallas resident who believes the county is in dire straits following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He’s running to ensure the council is filled with “good quality, dedicated people.”

He ran for City Council in 1999, 2007, 2015 and 2017. If elected, he promises to focus on community needs, such as bringing jobs to the area, fairly compensating city workers, health resources for senior citizens and more scrutiny on Dallas ISD’s education outcomes.

Joe Tave
Joe Tave(Joe Tave)

Tave has served on more than a dozen committees and boards for the city, including the Citizens Safety Advisory Committee, Civil Service Board and Community Development Commission.

“I think the first priority should be meeting the needs of the services of people who make up the districts,” Tave said. “And I will do that with transparency and openness.”

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