Six new council members are being sworn in today at Dallas City Hall, including Adam McGough who replaces Jerry Allen as District 10 representative. McGough recounts an eventful campaign, offers a behind-the-scenes look at his long election day, and outlines his plan for the immediate and distant future.
Before his 1964 election as President, Lyndon Johnson earned his nickname “Landslide Lyndon” by beating Gov. Coke Stevenson for the U.S. Senate in 1948 by 87 votes out of 940,000 cast. Adam McGough became the Lake Highlands version of the famous Texan when he beat Paul Reyes by 36 votes out of 5,968 tallied for the City Council seat for District 10.
How did it happen and what now?
McGough finished second to Reyes in the general election and then switched places in the run-off. That’s not unheard of in politics. Several years ago, Gary Griffith won his Lakewood City Council District 9 run-off over Roxanne Staff after finishing second in the general. More remarkable is there were 245 more voters in the run-off than in the general. Three cheers for an engaged electorate.
McGough’s election day started early. In the general election, signs were placed at polls the night before but disappeared before the polls opened so the plan changed for the run-off. The McGough team was up at 5:30 a.m. planting signs and people at the polls. He spent most of his personal time at Hamilton Park, New Mount Zion and Lake Highlands School. In fact, McGough was late to his own election party at Neighbors Casual Kitchen because he was swaying last minute undecideds who showed up as the polls closed.
His first look at the early voting returns was on his phone as he was dressing for the night at Neighbors. He was 176 votes down, but intuition gained from a day working the polls kept him optimistic. Other people, political nerds and novices alike, saw the early returns as evidence of an eventual Reyes win. Sixty percent of the general election voters had voted early in the run-off. As it typically does, the trend would hold. It was over.
But precincts started reporting game-day voting and McGough closed the gap. 123 behind. Then 70. Then 20. His first lead was marked by a loud soccer-field scream from his son. One big question remained. Precinct 2061 is in the White Rock Valley neighborhood, Alan Walne’s home precinct and the heart of Reyes support. It was one of the last of the thirty precincts to report. Could he hold off Reyes after the Precinct 2061 results came in? Yes, he could. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Lake Highlands had a new councilman.
In a great American political tradition, Reyes called McGough to congratulate him on his victory. Unable to hear a ring, McGough picked it up later that evening on voice mail and returned the call. No talk of hanging chads, regardless of the close finish.
The election party turned festive. A strange bedfellow crowd including Jerry Allen, Bill Blaydes, Angela Hunt, James White and Mayor Mike Rawlings hung out together at Neighbors. No talk about the Trinity. Plenty of time for that after a victory celebration.
How did it happen? The current conventional wisdom is that James White’s endorsement made the difference. Yes, McGough got White’s endorsement but he got some shoe leather to go along with it. “James’ people organized walks on my behalf in their neighborhoods, “ said McGough, “ His work for me wasn’t expected but it was very much appreciated.”
White’s endorsement came from McGough’s reconsideration of a toll road inside the Trinity levee. McGough accepted White’s endorsement but sent back the contribution from the Dallas Citizen’s Council they demanded be returned after he changed positions.
McGough didn’t have the exact number, but he raised more than $100,000 through the run-off. No doubt there will be some people catching the last caboose on the McGough train as he holds post-victory fundraisers to retire some campaign debt.
Given the opportunity to single out people to thank, McGough mentions his wife Lacy and his mom. Oh, and that out-of-town friend who texted him that he got 17 family friends living in Lake Highlands that didn’t vote in the general election to vote for him in the runoff.
Along with the newly elected and re-elected Dallas City Council, McGough will be sworn in Monday. He will have a honeymoon and then he will not.
What are his plans for the next 90 days? He lays it out:
1) Call a Town Hall meeting on the Lake Highlands Town Center with all stakeholders present and subsequently name a Task Force.
2) Request an additional community prosecutor to focus on Forest-Audelia and Greenville-I-635, two locations in Dallas’ top ten hot spots for crime.
3) Identify a very specific number and names of apartment communities to pressure for better living environments.
4) Convene a group for transportation issues, primarily I-635 East.
5) Remove Alternative 3C, shorthand for a big 6-8 Trinity toll road, from Dallas City Council consideration.
It was a very tough campaign that split the community almost right down the middle. McGough mimicked Lyndon Johnson in his slim margin of victory. In a gesture of healing, maybe he can do his best Abraham Lincoln impression and form a Team of Rivals on his task forces, boards and commissions to bring neighborhoods together and get things done for Lake Highlands.