Omar Narvaez

The new city council will look a lot like the old city council, and the mayor will run unopposed

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Election Day for the new Dallas city council and mayor is Saturday, May 6. Early voting runs Monday, April 24 through Tuesday, May 2. And the new Dallas City Council looks as though it will be very similar to the current city council.

Mayor Eric Johnson, who was elected to his first of a possible two four-year terms in 2019, is seeking reelection. While the office was hotly contested with about 10 viable candidates last time Johnson will be running unopposed this year. Former Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa considered running, but withdrew from the race in January.

Chad West

The last time the office of Dallas mayor was unopposed was in 1967, when same-name, different-spelling Mayor Erik Jonsson was seeking his second term.

“It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as the mayor of my hometown,” Johnson said in a statement. “We have achieved significant, measurable results for the residents of Dallas over the past four years, and I look forward to continuing this incredible progress in my second term.”

Chief among his accomplishments is a decrease in violent crimes. Dallas is the only major city in the U.S. to have scored a decrease in crime since the pandemic.

Two of the 14 council members — Casey Thomas and Adam McGough — are in their fourth terms and can’t run again this year.

Both of the gay men currently on the council, who have both filed to run for another term in office, have been recognized with leadership positions during their tenures: Omar Narvaez serves as deputy mayor pro tem; Chad West was mayor pro tem last year.

Both have drawn opponents in this election who are known in their districts.

Former City Councilwoman Monica Alonso, whom Narvaez originally defeated and who has run against him in each of his subsequent elections, has filed to run against him again this year, too. He has two additional opponents as well: first-time candidate Sidney Robles Martinez and Tony Carrillo, who ran for city council in the three previous elections.

In District 1, Mariana Griggs, former wife of former City Councilman Scott Griggs, has filed to run against West. A third candidate — Albert Mata — is also running.

West is popular in his district, but so was Scott Griggs. The question in that race is whether Mariana Griggs has time in the short election season to attract enough support to force a run-off.

Fort Worth is adding two seats to its city council because of population growth. The Census Bureau estimated the city had 935,000 residents in 2021, making that city about the size Dallas was in 1979.

Since Joel Burns left the council in 2014, Fort Worth has had no LGBTQ representation. That will continue at least one more election cycle.

Annise Parker

Houston’s first out council member was Annise Parker who was elected in 1997, four years after Dallas began routinely electing LGBTQ council members and went on to become the city’s mayor. She’s now president and CEO of the LGBT Victory Fund.
When it comes to LGBTQ representation on the council this year, “We’re a little antsy in Houston,” Parker said this week.

Gay City Councilman Robert Gallegos, who is term limited out of office, is running for mayor of Houston. But he’s behind in fundraising; four other candidates have more than $1 million in the bank. Victory Fund hasn’t endorsed in that race yet, but Parker said there’s time, because Houston’s local elections aren’t until November.

“He has to step it up,” Parker said of Gallegos.

She said two newcomers are running for the council — Mario Castillo and Nick Hellyar.

Unlike Dallas races where an incumbent who is term-limited can sit out a race and then run again, in Houston candidates are then banned for life from running for the same position.

Two other gay incumbents are running for city council seats in Texas this spring. Jonathan Estrada is running for a second term in Pasadena and Jalen McKee-Rodriguez is up for reelection in San Antonio.

Estrada, Parker said, “scratched out a win last time.” He has two challengers this race, but Parker said he’s done a good job and should win.

McKee-Rodriguez was the first out Black man elected to office in Texas. Parker said he’s in his early 20s and has done a good job. But he has six opponents, so anything could happen there.

“We want to see more LGBT folks stepping up to run,” Parker said, adding that she’s delighted to see McKee-Rodriguez and Estrada, also in his 20s, running as part of a new generation stepping up for careers in politics.

Victory Fund recently ran a training in Plano for people considering a run, and, while no new LGBTQ candidates are running for council in Dallas this year, Parker said, several were there eying upcoming vacancies.
Victory Fund is seeing an increase this year in LGBTQ candidates running for school boards, Parker said, as a reaction to book bans, “don’t say gay” laws and other legislation under consideration in Florida, Texas and other states.

Parker’s advice to anyone running for office is this: “Political office is not a destination. It’s a tool. Don’t run for city council unless you care about potholes. Be passionate about it.”

She said she’s worked with city council members who really wanted to be in the Legislature, and they didn’t make good city council members because they didn’t care about garbage collection or other local issues that city councils deal with.

“These are big expensive races,” Parker continued. “In a citywide office in Houston, you represent more people than the governors of 15 states.”

Parker said this is the year to watch mayoral and local elections everywhere. “It’s a big deal we have a Black lesbian running Chicago,” she said about Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is up for reelection on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

“Jane Castor,” Parker said, “should win without a problem. She’s doing a great job as mayor of Tampa.” That election will be held on March 7.

Parker said Victory Fund has also endorsed Leslie Herod for mayor of Denver. She’d become the first woman elected to that position. That election is on April 4.