Failed mayoral candidate tosses towel in on political career, notes he “‘pushed all of the chips on the table and lost;’ time to go back to work
The question on most everybody’s mind this week was, “What’s next for gay politician Ed Oakley?”
Nothing political, it seems.
“It will be a very boring story,” said Oakley during an interview following his loss in the June 16 mayoral runoff election. “I’m just going back to work. I’m going to take a vacation. I need to go and recoup, then I’m going to get back and get things geared up.”
Oakley said it would be the first time in 15 years that he has concentrated his energy solely on his construction business.
“For the first time, I don’t have a board or a commission or anything to show up for,” said Oakley, who is known for his high energy level and hectic schedule.
The Oklahoma native, who moved to Dallas 25 years ago and embraced the city and its LGBT community, said losing the mayor’s race had changed the direction of his life. Although he has had several people call and offer him a job, there appears to be no political options, he said.
“I cannot imagine in my wildest imagination what that would be at this stage of the game,” said Oakley, an Oak Cliff resident who served three terms as a city councilman and on the City Plan Commission prior to being elected to office. “Basically, this is a high stakes poker game. I pushed all of the chips on the table and I lost the last hand.”
Oakley said he is not bitter about his loss to retired businessman Tom Leppert, who was backed by the Dallas business community and primarily voted into office by North Dallas residents and religious conservatives.
“I want to see good things happen for the city,” Oakley said. “I wish him very well, and I hope he gets his arms around it.”
Craig Holcomb, a gay former city councilman who encouraged Oakley to run for mayor last year, said the city and the LGBT community have lost one of their best public servants.
“Ed truly is one of the hardest working people I know,” said Holcomb, who is executive director of Friends of Fair Park. “Politics is a whole lot more about hard work than it is glamour or finding magic solutions.”
Holcomb said he was greatly saddened by Oakley’s loss in the mayor’s race and the realization that, for the first time in 14 years, there will not be an openly-gay representative on the City Council.
“It was extraordinarily disappointing to me, and I am trying hard to get over it,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said Oakley’s contributions to the LGBT community have been enormous.
“That moment in the runoff when I cast my ballot for Ed Oakley, I stopped and just savored the moment,” Holcomb said. “As a 59-year-old, when I grew up homosexuals didn’t exist, much less run for mayor and be in the runoff.”
Holcomb said Oakley helped disprove stereotypes about gay men.
“Ed looks like a good old boy,” Holcomb said. “I think that was valuable for all of us.”
Oakley said he is confident that new people will emerge to lead Dallas’ LGBT community to more progress, and he is looking forward to watching it and the rest of the city prosper together.
“This closes a chapter on Dallas politics,” Oakley said. “I feel very good. Like the old Boy Scout saying, I left Dallas in a better place than when I entered it, as far as the political arena is concerned.”
Oakley said he feels privileged to have accomplished as much as he did politically.
“It was amazing to be elected as one of the 15 council members in the ninth-largest city in America,” Oakley said. “As I said the other night, I climbed up and stood on the shoulders of people before me. Now, someone will stand up on my shoulders and take it to the next level.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 22, 2007.