Dispatches from Dallas, September 29 edition

This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.

This week, in news from Dallas-Fort Worth, the mayor of Dallas has jumped parties, quelle surprise. Also, some local follow-up on the Paxton impeachment, an actual report on the Dallas ransomware attack from this spring, a local media lawsuit ends up settled (thanks Biden! no, really), Dallas wins a DARPA-H hub, education news, public transit news, Operation Kindness and #EmptyTheShelters in October, Deep Ellum anniversary exhibits, Lorenzo the tortoise goes home safely, and more.

This week’s post was brought to you by the music of Depeche Mode, whom I will be seeing on Sunday. They still put on an excellent show and I commend their tour to you if you can get tickets.

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody who’s been paying attention, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced he was switching parties and becoming a Republican in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece (Local coverage: DMN; Observer; Dallas Free Press; plus Star-Telegram opinion; Texas Tribune; Texas Public Radio). You can read all those or you can decide there’s too much there and either celebrate that Dallas now has a Republican mayor or, well, not mourn but acknowledge the truth of the oft-quoted Rep. John Bryant tweet: “Switching parties? I didn’t know he was a Democrat.”

As Rep. Bryant notes, it’s not like Johnson has been acting like a Democrat for a while. Despite having spent time as a Democrat in the state House, he’s definitely been on the conservative end of Dallas politics for a while. His recent mayoral campaign (more on that later) was tilted toward the Park Cities/north Dallas crowd. He’s been at odds with liberal members of the city council, he couldn’t get the city manager fired, and he lost the recent battle over the city budget. As Gromer Jeffers, the DMN’s local politics writer, points out, Johnson is betting on the resurgence of Republicans motivated by money rather than culture wars by the time he leaves office in 2027 and is ready to run for higher office in 2028.

I’ll tell you upfront that you can take this to the bank for the subscription fees you paid our host, but I don’t understand this bet. Maybe he’s been hanging out so much in the Park Cities that he believes their BS, but there’s not a lot of room for Dallas-style Republicans in politics right now and that won’t change between now and 2027. The MAGA types control the primaries. Sure, Republicans have been eating their own for years now, and with Ken Paxton’s acquittal, the infighting is only going to get more vicious. Where that leaves room for Johnson in a statewide primary when Joe Straus is staying home is beyond me. If I saw a path forward for Johnson, it would be a Dallas-area House seat, but which one? Is he thinking he can take CD 32 back from whoever succeeds Colin Allred? Or is he thinking he can pry Jasmine Crockett out of CD 30? Or Marc Veasey out of CD 33? With the state of the gerrymandered Congressional districts he’ll have a hard time unseating a Democratic incumbent; beating an incumbent in a Republican primary looks impossible.

Leaving politics with Mayor of Dallas as your highest office is hardly shameful. Maybe he just plans to write a book and go on the rubber chicken/well-done steak-with-ketchup talk circuit, or take some of that sweet think-tank and lobby money. Or maybe he wants to sit on a bunch of boards that wouldn’t have him as a Democrat. That sounds more realistic than betting your career on a post-MAGA return of business Republicans in 2028 when we don’t know how 2024 is going to turn out.

Speaking of that mayoral job: the local Democratic Party is testing the water for a recall with a web petition for him to resign. Full disclosure: I signed it because I’m curious to see what action items they’ll send me. The Dems aren’t pushing for an actual recall, probably because the bar for signatures to start a recall is high (15% of eligible voters in the last election). I haven’t investigated the web site someone put up so I can’t say who’s behind it, but it’s not that hard to buy a URL, slap up some graphics, and make an Instagram account.

Realistically, we’re stuck with Johnson for another three years. He’ll be the same lousy mayor he’s always been when he actually shows up. He’ll just have an R after his name instead of a D along with the Ls.

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