You remember last month, when I was all like, “Hey, you really need to go vote in the Dallas City Council runoff election,” and you were like, “Naw, I’m too busy sitting on the couch eating Fritos,” and then I was like, “No, for real, go vote,” and then you did? Well, kudos. Your civic-mindedness paid off.

Usually, there’s a precipitous drop in the number of people who vote in a runoff compared to the general election. As expected, turnout fell 20-40 percent in the three City Council runoff races in southern Dallas.

But voter turnout was remarkably high in the Lake Highlands runoff. In District 10, about 4 percent more people showed up to the polls in the runoff than the first time around. That’s practically unheard of. And nearly as many people voted in District 10’s runoff election as voted in all three of the other runoff races combined.

In District 10, about 4 percent more people showed up to the polls in the runoff than the first time around. That’s practically unheard of.

In the end, Adam McGough beat Paul Reyes by 35 votes. A razor thin margin for sure, but recall that Reyes was the favored candidate going into the runoff, having surpassed McGough by more than 250 votes in the general election.

How did McGough make up the deficit and then some?

I think that in the recent council elections in Districts 9 and 10, a candidate’s position on the toll road served as a key differentiator for voters. [/quote]My theory is that it has to do with the Trinity Toll Road (but then again, I say that about most things). I think that in the recent council elections in Districts 9 and 10, a candidate’s position on the toll road served as a key differentiator for voters.

Dallas City Council elections are non-partisan, and that is as it should be. But that also means that there are no capital letters following a candidate’s name on the ballot to serve as shorthand for their core values. This can make it hard for voters to distinguish among a multitude of candidates, all of whom are vowing to fill potholes, hire more police, and lower taxes.

Enter the Trinity Toll Road. Certainly it wasn’t the only issue, and it wasn’t even the most important issue, but in Districts 9 and 10, many voters looked at a candidate’s opposition to the toll road as a measure of political independence — an affirmation that they wouldn’t fall in line with the old business establishment, an assurance that they would be more attuned to neighborhoods, that they would be smart fiscal watchdogs.

In District 10, McGough and Reyes had avoided the toll road issue altogether until James White joined the race and forced the discussion. A staunch opponent of the toll road, White pledged to kill the larger version of the toll road if elected. Neither McGough nor Reyes would do so.

But with White in the race, District 10 voters began asking the other two candidates where they stood on the toll road, demanding definitive answers. A poll came out showing that nearly two-thirds of Lake Highlanders oppose the Trinity Toll Road. Then on Election Day, James White, the long-shot, last-minute candidate with little money or name ID, secured an impressive 23 percent of the vote, or 1,300 votes. How would runoff candidates Reyes and McGough respond to these clear indicators that District 10 voters opposed the Trinity Toll Road?

In the runoff, Reyes stuck to his position, but McGough announced that if elected, he, too, would vote to eliminate the massive, $1.5 billion toll road plan. As a result, James White threw his support behind McGough and worked to turn out his 1,300 voters (and full disclosure: so did I). In the end, McGough got about 1,000 more votes in the runoff than he did in the general election, while Reyes only picked up an additional 600 votes. That allowed McGough to pull ahead by a critical 35 votes.

With the election of McGough and Mark Clayton, as well Carolyn King Arnold in District 4, there are now at least seven out of 15 votes on the Dallas City Council who oppose the Trinity Toll Road. More importantly, this group of seven may also prove to be a coalition of smart, independent leaders who will fight for neighborhoods, who will reject shiny boondoggles, who will throw off the cobwebbed shackles of the Dallas Citizens Council. How great would that be?