If you could break off the East Dallas chunk of the District 2 “doughnut” that surrounds the Park Cities, you’d be holding nearly half of the district’s registered voters — more than 40,000 of 84,000-plus.
The candidates vying for this empty seat behind the Dallas ISD dais are well aware of this fact. No doubt they also have reviewed the district’s 2015 bond election data, showing that more than half of the District 2 voters who showed up at the polls came from neighborhoods east of Central Expressway.
All of them are hoping that East Dallas votes their way on May 7.
Dustin Marshall, the first to enter the race, lives in Preston Hollow but gave a political nod to East Dallasites right out of the gate: His campaign treasurer selection was Richard Vitale, board chairman of the Woodrow Wilson High School Community Foundation and a Lakewood and Long dad. Marshall also is quick to mention his own position on the Woodrow foundation board, and two of his four mailers to neighborhood voters played up the “East Dallas and Lakewood Parents” who support his campaign.
Suzanne Smith, who tossed her hat in the ring about a month after Marshall, also entered with East Dallas cred: The three city councilmen who represent our neighborhood — Mark Clayton, Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano — backed her unequivocally. Though she now lives in Oak Lawn, Smith highlights her stint as an M Streets resident, and East Dallas homes and restaurants have played host to most of her meet-and-greets.
Mita Havlick, who jumped in near the filing deadline, is a longtime M Streets resident and sent both of her children to Stonewall Jackson Elementary through third-grade. Her familiarity in neighborhood circles is evident in her meet-and-greet lineup and also in her recent campaign finance report, which is sprinkled liberally with East Dallas zip codes.
(Carlos Marroquin, the final candidate, lives in Oak Lawn and seems to be neither actively campaigning nor spending money in East Dallas or the rest of the district.)
Will neighborhood voters latch onto a candidate solely based on his or her East Dallas ties? Not likely. But around these here parts, we take a shine to our own, so how the candidates make connections to this area of town certainly will have an impact on the outcome of the race.
Based on yard sign sightings, Smith and Havlick seem to be making the most inroads in East Dallas. Smith signs are concentrated east of Abrams, in Lakewood Elementary territory, and Havlick’s dominate the west side, where Stonewall families live. Marshall signs are scattered throughout as well, though not as prevalent.
Signage polling is a guesstimating methodology at best, however. Marshall, the only candidate in this race using campaign funds for polling, should have a more accurate idea of whose message is getting across in East Dallas.
“At a broad level, East Dallas is certainly the most engaged electorate — arguably in all of Dallas, in every election, but certainly as it relates to DISD,” Marshall says.
Smith similarly recognizes that it’s the neighborhood where “the predominant amount of voters are engaged in the schools. They have a lot more at risk. You have people who experience the schools, get frustrated by the schools and really care who that [trustee] is.”
“I do believe, absolutely, East Dallas is going to come out strong and vote,” Havlick says. “We have a vested interest in the direction of our schools. If the district does well, then we’ll do well, and we know that.”
None of the candidates are putting all of their eggs in East Dallas’ basket, however. Marshall points out that District 2 neighborhoods west of Central “collectively come close to rivaling East Dallas and Lakewood.”
And not just in sheer numbers. Bluffview, Briarwood, Greenway Parks and other neighborhoods near Love Field almost matched East Dallas’ voter turnout in the bond election — 12.07 percent of registered voters to East Dallas’ 12.87 percent — and Preston Hollow turned out in higher numbers than East Dallas — 13.78 percent. Uptown and Oak Lawn turnout was lower — 8.23 percent.
The question is how — and how much — District 2’s neighborhoods will vote on May 7. And the reality is that if one candidate can carry the bulk of East Dallas, that candidate has the best shot of becoming the next District 2 trustee.
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