- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

DALLAS Ron Kirk, a gregarious lobbyist-turned-politician who served more than six years as this city's first black mayor, quit yesterday to make himself available to run for the U.S. Senate seat soon to be vacated by Republican Phil Gramm.
Mr. Kirk was surrounded by family and friends among them many power brokers in this city as he formally stepped down in a bustling City Hall ceremony.
Calling his tenure "the ride of a lifetime," he recounted gains made by the city under his guidance.
His voice noticeably cracking, Mr. Kirk said, "There is nothing that I have loved more than serving you as mayor and the people of this city. I have cherished every minute of it, and I thank you for giving me the greatest honor anyone could have given me by allowing me to "
Mr. Kirk, a Democrat, was elected overwhelmingly in June 1995 and given his second term by a wide margin in 1999.
As he mentioned yesterday, he came into office with the city polarized politically and racially and with a council that was contentious, even unruly.
Though criticized by some, Mr. Kirk, 47, ruled firmly more so than any mayor in recent history and finally corralled a diverse council into relative harmony.
He was the main force behind winning voter approval for the city's $420 million American Airlines Center and a $246 million Trinity River channelization project projects many opposed because they feared developers would make huge profits while citizens would pick up a heavier tax burden. Both projects won by small majority, with black voters making the difference.
"We were a city seemingly hopelessly divided, by highways, by a river, by a partisanship, by our ethnicity, by what we thought our political ideologies were," he recalled, adding, "but many of us came together with a simple belief that if we would stop fighting one another and began to start solving problems, we could change this city and we did that."
Mr. Kirk, once the chief lobbyist for the City of Dallas and later named by Gov. Ann Richards as secretary of state, had been a strong and visible mayor in a city not always blessed with engaged mayors.
Some familiar with Mr. Kirk's soon-to-be-announced entry into the Senate race claim that his strength will lie in his ability to build coalitions.
In recent weeks some of Mr. Kirk's pet projects faltered. Boeing Co. cited the lack of a vibrant downtown as one reason it passed up Dallas and went instead to Chicago. And the U.S. Olympic Committee cut Dallas from its short list of finalists for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Mr. Kirk is the most visible candidate to announce for the Democrat slate next year, although Houston Congressman Ken Bentsen said he would announce Nov. 26 and Victor Morales, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Gramm six years ago, said he would enter the race next week. Austin lawyer Ed Cunningham is already.
Former Attorney General Dan Morales was unavailable for comment yesterday but said recently he was "considering" the race.
On the Republican side, state Attorney General John Cornyn has already announced.


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