Gay candidate is second among crowded field of mayoral candidates in total amount of funds raised in race
A jubilant Ed Oakley was celebrating his fundraising success as he campaigned for mayor at a civic celebration last week.
Campaign reports filed at Dallas City Hall showed Oakley had raised $511,870 during the first quarter of the year. That placed him second in fundraising, and only $41,296 behind Tom Leppert, a millionaire who is one of the 10 other candidates on the May 12 ballot.
“If I had known it was that close, I would have spent another day on the phone raising money and closed that gap,” said Oakley, who was participating in the grand opening of the Dallas Logistics Hub in South Dallas County as one of the City Council members who helped get the project off the ground.
Oakley, who arrived at the event at least a half-hour before any other public officials, acknowledged he was taking the opportunity to ask for votes.
“Everywhere you show your face is an opportunity to do some more campaigning,” Oakley said.
Oakley said his goal had been to raise $500,000 during the first three months of his campaign, and he was heartened to surpass that mark. More than just about anything else, the ability to raise money for a campaign makes a politician a viable candidate, he noted.
Oakley also was third in terms of money on hand in his campaign coffer. Max Wells had $500,060, Leppert had $474,869 and Oakley had $365,796. But both Wells and Leppert had made campaign loans to themselves to the tune of $600,000 and $250,000 respectively.
So far Leppert, who has been running television campaign ads, has spent $773,111, and Oakley has spent $181,441.
Oakley’s campaign effort so far has focused on yard signs, billboards, mailings and door-to-door campaigning.
“The campaign is going really great,” Oakley said. “We’ve knocked on 70,000 doors so far.”
Latrisa Rogers, campaign event scheduler and personal assistant to Oakley, said a “parade of volunteers has shown up” at the campaign office to help Oakley get elected. Everyone is optimistic that Oakley will get into the runoff and win the mayor’s seat, she said.
“Everyone has got the best attitude possible, and everything is going great,” Rogers said. “From the feel and the spirit we’re getting and the comments it seems that everyone is excited. It’s going so smoothly we’re shocked. It’s been very, very busy ferociously busy.”
Oakley yard signs are popping up all over Dallas, and his billboards are everywhere too. In one, he is featured with former City Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill, who commands strong respect in Oak Lawn and East Dallas. In North Dallas, Oakley enjoys support from Councilman Bill Blaydes, who is equally respected in his district.
Lill said Oakley has support all over the city. “As far as I can see he is the person with the broadest base of support,” Lill said. “He has good grassroots support, and that’s what really wins elections. I think he has momentum for getting in the runoff.”
Lill said she very carefully considered whom she wanted to support for mayor.
“I really looked at all of the candidates their experience, their abilities to build consensuses and their current knowledge as to whether they really understand Dallas today and where it is headed,” Lill said. “I felt Ed was the person who understood where Dallas is going. I think he is knowledgeable, experienced and effective.”
Oakley said he needs to raise about another $750,000 to help put him in the mayor’s seat, and he believes he can do it. Television advertising would be reserved to the last crucial days of the campaign, he said. “If I raise the money there will be television advertising,” Oakley said.
If Oakley wins the election, it will mark the first time for one of the top 10 U.S. cities to elect an openly gay man as mayor. In Europe, Paris and Berlin have elected openly gay mayors.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 20, 2007.