While the Dallas mayoral race has given voters nine candidates on the ballot to sift through, the District 13 city council race has taken on a mayoral quality of its own.
A year ago, many viewed Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates as a likely front-runner to replace term-limited Mike Rawlings if she decided to run for mayor.
Instead, she chose to seek reelection for what would be her fourth and final term and now finds herself in the unusual situation of running against a former mayor.
The last-hour entry of Laura Miller, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2007 and the Oak Cliff council member from 1998 to 2002, has given voters a distinct choice between candidates who tout different approaches to zoning and development and has provided observers with a contentious race to follow.
“It is a bit of a surprise to see [Miller] re-enter politics below the mayoral level,” said Matthew Wilson, associate professor of political science at SMU.
“Her tenure as mayor was fairly polarizing – she had big fans and strong detractors – and she is taking on a popular incumbent with strong name recognition,” Wilson said.
“Really, that race will focus on different visions of economic development, and on who will be more effective at preserving and enhancing the day-to-day quality of life in a generally affluent district.” -Matthew Wilson
Gates is the daughter of a Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Miller was dubbed “Madam No” by sports columnist Randy Galloway during the process that saw the team build its new stadium in Arlington instead of Dallas.
Miller raised $123,611 between Feb. 15, the last day to file, and March 25. Gates has raised $196,750, according to the first campaign finance reports, which were due April 4.
“Both (Miller’s) supporters and her critics cross party lines, with prominent Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives in both camps,” Wilson said. “Really, that race will focus on different visions of economic development, and on who will be more effective at preserving and enhancing the day-to-day quality of life in a generally affluent district.”
Gates has talked of the importance of personality and style in this race and identified herself as the only candidate with a proven track record of withholding judgment on an issue until she can see through a process that gives everyone a voice.
Miller is running because she claims Gates’ process gives too much of an advantage to developers, who put neighboring residents on the defensive by filing for zoning changes before consensus is reached.
By contrast, Miller said she would make developers present a plan that makes sense and then get neighborhood support before filing for a zone change.
“I’m all for balanced development, but it must make sense for the people who are left to live with the results,” she said.
Miller also complained that projects Gates would allow greatly exceed density levels called for in the Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan adopted in 2017.
Gates’ responded that the plan is not a zoning document and can’t bring redevelopment without city action. “If we want to make it a reality, we have to rezone.”
Tim Glaze contributed to this report.
Learn more: Visit prestonhollowpeople.com for Q&As with the District 13 candidates as well as more coverage of the race.