James White, who finished third in a three-man race for the District 10 City Council seat, recently endorsed Adam McGough over Paul Reyes, the two candidates now locked in a June 13 runoff.
White earned 23 percent of the vote and ran a well-regarded campaign for a relative novice, gathering more votes than most pundits predicted.
For the politicians, the political professionals and the onlookers, White’s endorsement was big news.
But for that peculiar crowd, the timing of the endorsement might have overshadowed the actual endorsement, because just hours before the announcement, McGough reconsidered his position on the Trinity Toll Road.
Merely a coincidence? Not for White.
Both McGough and Reyes had approached White about receiving his endorsement. When asked if the Trinity Toll Road was the “final arbiter” in deciding which candidate to endorse, White’s answer was one word: “Yes.”
“The reason I was able to get 23 percent as a beginner was that I built a coalition around opposition to the toll road,” White says. “It is an issue so important to the City of Dallas that it did become the final arbiter in making my decision.
“This is the issue that gave me traction in my campaign and attracted supporters,” White says. “I hope my supporters feel I spent their money well in the pursuit of the goal they wanted, which was the elimination of 3C (3C is shorthand for the approved design alternative that results in a six-lane toll road).
“I have a commitment from Adam for that. When we started this race, no one had that position. We moved them. We moved the candidates that way.”
White says McGough’s change of heart isn’t an opportunistic move.
“I think he is doing the smart and intelligent thing. He is listening to his constituents. I was impressed by the way Adam synthesized new information and modified his position.”
When asked if he changed his position on the elimination of 3C in order to earn White’s endorsement, McGough didn’t say yes or no. He isn’t the political beginner that White is.
His answer started off “Honestly …” and, with a slight pause, he continued his response with similar statements echoing White about listening to voters. McGough says the Trinity Toll Road is “not the primary consideration” for District 10 voters (it’s about “7th or 8th” on the list, he says), but as the campaign wore on, he noticed more and more constituents were strongly against a six-lane toll road.
McGough says he came to the conclusion that “no one can rep District 10 and be behind a big toll road.”
What about Reyes, who acknowledged he actively sought White’s endorsement? As he understands it, eliminating consideration of 3C would set back the current timeline for any further improvements, and the City would go back to the batter’s box with federal authorities who are funding much of the toll road. He doesn’t see “blowing up 3C” as the right call to maintain momentum for road improvements to complement the planned park amenities for the Trinity area.
“The timing does seem odd,” Reyes says, when asked about confluence of McGough’s reconsideration and White’s endorsement.
Is it opportunistic?
“That’s not for me to judge, but what I can tell you is that I am running for City Council because I have very strong beliefs about what I want for our community — safe neighborhoods, great schools, clean parks and green spaces and smart growth.”
Is White’s endorsement the game changer?
The irony isn’t lost on those watching this contest closely. If White’s endorsement motivates his supporters to vote for McGough, it’s possible that a road 10 miles from Lake Highlands — and an issue that most acknowledge lags in neighborhood importance behind developing the Town Center, behind improving public safety, behind proposed I-635 improvements, and behind the Skillman Gateway plan — may be the defining issue in determining who represents District 10.