- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

DALLAS Former investigative journalist Laura Miller will be sworn in as Dallas mayor Wednesday the result of her rousing victory Saturday in an election that brought out many who had never voted before in a city election here.
Mrs. Miller, 43, easily defeated an establishment-backed candidate to become mayor for the next 15 months. That is the remainder of Ron Kirk's term. Mr. Kirk stepped down in November to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
The final tally in the runoff was Mrs. Miller at 72,983 (55 percent) to 60,053 (45 percent) for Tom Dunning, 59, a pleasant but dull insurance millionaire who had become the anointed candidate of the establishment, the downtown business community.
Perhaps more surprising than the fact that Mrs. Miller won Saturday was how she won.
She overwhelmingly captured the white vote north and east Dallas a core segment of voters who generally back the person the establishment designates as their favorite for mayor.
Mr. Dunning gained most of the black vote. Mrs. Miller got most of the Hispanic vote, despite the fact that Domingo Garcia who finished third in the Jan. 19 election with 11 percent of the vote strongly endorsed Mr. Dunning.
Her predecessor's style apparently helped also.
Mr. Kirk, the city's first black mayor, was an articulate and tireless worker for big-ticket items, including a $325-million entertainment arena and a futuristic but terribly expensive revitalization and channelization plan for the Trinity River. He also pushed unsuccessful projects designed to lure the 2012 Olympics and persuade Boeing to move its headquarters to Dallas.
He did not, however, prioritize the more mundane aspects of running a city providing basic services, improving a deteriorating parks system, repairing city streets that had become hazardous and enforcement of city codes.
And his handling or lack, say critics of the current several-month-old narcotics scandal that has tainted the police department has upset even some of the establishment's leaders.
Mrs. Miller, who was elected to the City Council in 1998, battled Mr. Kirk on most of these items.
She accused Mr. Kirk of "backroom dealing," and often the council voted overwhelmingly (13-2) against her demands for openness in city government.
"Laura Miller was primarily supported by the disaffected and disenfranchised white voter," said political analyst Rufus Shaw.
"She already had good name ID," said political consultant Clayton Henry. "She reached out beyond her base to energize others who believed in her message."
"And the Dunning campaign badly miscalculated," said Robert Wedgewood, a Miller backer. "They thought they could get Laura to implode when attacked, thereby confirming their contention that she was a malcontent and abrasive divider. She was cooler than cool."
He was alluding to perhaps the biggest mistake the Dunning campaign made. It ran several television spots showing Mrs. Miller railing at Mr. Kirk or the council, and suggesting that Mrs. Miller could never build a coalition could never become effective as mayor.
That only gave the Miller campaign more momentum, bringing out money and votes from many who had never been involved in city politics at any level.
At one northwest Dallas precinct Saturday, poll watchers said it appeared one-third of those who cast ballots had not done so in many years, if ever.

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