Speculation that Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert plans to step down to run for U.S. Senate has, in turn, fueled rumors that openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley would be among those seeking Leppert’s job in an ensuing special election for mayor.
But Oakley, who lost a runoff for mayor to Leppert in 2007, largely dismissed those rumors this week, saying that unless he’s approached by representatives from the city’s business establishment, including the powerful Dallas Citizens Council, he won’t be a candidate.
“I would say there’s a 99.9 percent chance that I would not be [running],” Oakley told Dallas Voice. “The only way that would happen is if the Citizens Council decided to approach me to run. They usually have a huge say-so in it. Obviously they had a big hand in getting this mayor [Leppert] elected.”
Oakley added that the further he gets from his three terms as a councilman and the 2007 campaign for mayor, the more his name recognition declines, making it harder to raise money.
“You kind of lose your momentum,” he said. “It would take the business community saying we need somebody in there who understands City Hall. If they did that, I’d have to take a very hard look at it. If they approach me, it’s a game-changer.”
Others who’ve been rumored as possible candidates for mayor include City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a strong LGBT ally, and City Councilman Ron Natinsky, who’s been relatively supportive of the gay community, especially given that he represents a conservative North Dallas district.
Leppert has neither confirmed nor denied that he intends to run for the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who plans to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in next year’s Republican primary.
Oakley, who’s been supportive of the mayor on major issues, indicated that he’ll be disappointed if Leppert steps down to run for Senate.
Oakley was on the council when Mayor Ron Kirk stepped down to run for Senate in 2002. He said Leppert’s resignation would cost the city $1 million to stage a special election and severely disrupt leadership at City Hall.
“My thoughts are he needs to stay right where he is,” Oakley said. “He should not be asking for another job until this one’s finished. The citizens of Dallas ought to be outraged if he resigns from being mayor in mid-term to run for another office.
“He asked for this job,” Oakley said. “He wanted this job. He went out and campaigned for this job. Every debate was, he wanted to give something back to the city, and when you ask for a job, you complete the job before you move on to the next one.”