Former journalist, businessman headed for runoff in Dallas mayoral election

Sunday, January 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Former newspaper columnist and Councilwoman Laura Miller and well-connected businessman Tom Dunning will face each other in a runoff election next month in the city's heated mayoral race.

With all precincts reporting Saturday night, Miller had 48.8 percent of the vote, ahead of Dunning's 39.0 percent. Democratic state Rep. Domingo Garcia finished with 11.1 percent.

Because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan election, Miller and Dunning will go into a runoff election Feb. 16.

Two little-known contenders were also vying to replace Ron Kirk, who resigned in November to run for the Senate.

Kirk, a Democrat hoping to follow retiring Republican Phil Gramm into the Senate, had a legacy of big projects as Dallas mayor, shepherding the $420 million American Airlines Center and the Trinity River redevelopment project in blighted south Dallas.

The candidates seeking to replace him largely promoted a back-to-basics campaign, emphasizing street repairs, parks improvements and putting police officers of the streets.

``This campaign is about one thing: Returning City Hall to the city of Dallas,'' Miller told about 500 supporters at a Western-themed party Saturday night.

``We are going to win and win strong,'' said Miller, 43, who was a newspaper columnist critical of city politics before she became a councilwoman, where she often clashed with Kirk and his supporters.

Dunning, 59, an insurance agent, is a favorite of the business community and former chairman of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport board. He raised nearly $1.5 million in campaign contributions _ about twice as much as Miller.

``We got to stop Laura's victory party,'' Dunning told supporters, who were chanting ``Go, Tom, go''

``We made it to the runoff,'' he said. ``We'll be back here on Feb. 16 celebrating victory.''

Dunning's supporters remained upbeat early on, even as Miller led 54.4 percent to 35.8 percent after early votes were counted.

``The folks for Laura tend to vote early, so we expected that,'' said Dunning campaign spokeswoman Carol Reed. ``We expect that we'll be in a runoff. I have prepared him for the early votes, and I thought we'd lose by more than we lost by.''

Garcia raised about $200,000. Garcia, a 43-year-old personal injury lawyer, also is a former councilman.

``I'm conceding that we didn't win this election,'' Garcia said. ``But I'm not conceding that we may not make the difference over who becomes the next mayor of Dallas.''

Garcia's supporters who intend to vote in the runoff now must decide who they'll support. Garcia wouldn't say who he will endorse, but he said, ``He or she better make sure that everybody's included in the Dallas family table.''

Saturday's race also included Jurline Hollins and Marvin Crenshaw. Crenshaw is a black activist and perennial candidate for mayor. Hollins, who has also run unsuccessfully for mayor before, did not seek to raise campaign money but said she wanted to be part of the political discussion.