Dallas state Rep. Eric Johnson won't be coming back to the House of Representatives but will get a better-paying new job.
Johnson, 43, a 10-year veteran Democrat from the west side of Dallas where he grew up, was a convincing runoff victor over Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs, 57-42 percent. As mayor, his salary will be just over $80,000 a year, contrasted to the measly $7,200 a year that Texas pays its lawmakers. Johnson won with wide, broad support from both Democrats and Republicans, the current mayor, several previous mayors and several former and current state legislators.
Johnson's new job, however, was made more challenging by the recent legislative session. Republicans, driven by Gov. Greg Abbott, Senate presiding officer Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, managed to push through legislation requiring Texas cities to have an automatic citizen referendum on any property tax increase over 3.5% a year.
Local governments have complained about the change, much harsher than the existing ability of voters to petition for a referendum on tax increases exceeding 8% a year. This change was born of the state's over-reliance for decades on local property taxes to substitute for the state's presumed share of financing public education.
Schools will welcome a new financing system and dipping into the Rainy Day Fund to help pay for it, but local officials say the accompanying property tax lid will hamstring their abilities to cope with needs like law enforcement, fire protection, parks, recreation and other costs, including unforeseen problems.
Johnson will take over his new job on Monday, June 17. Good luck, mayor.
Cornyn re-election drawing Democratic hopefuls
Some avid backers of Beto O'Rourke think he's wasting the name identification and network that he built up in 2018 in his near-miss run at Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. They wish he would stay home in Texas to run against Texas' other senator, Republican John Cornyn. Instead, he's driving (and flying) around the country, seeking to be the Democrat chosen from a couple dozen competitors to oppose Republican President Donald Trump.
After former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro passed on opposing Cornyn to join the presidential contest, his congressman twin brother Joaquin passed to further his career in the U.S. House of Representatives, and O'Rourke announced for president, now former U.S. Rep. and Houston City Councilman Chris Bell is considering the race.
Bell said he was among those who had hoped O'Rourke would run for Cornyn's seat, but when O'Rourke and both Castros passed it up, that whetted Bell's competitive juices. Bell was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006 against Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Perry got 39% to Bell's 29.8%. Then-State Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn, running as an Independent, got 18.1%, while Independent Kinky Friedman got 12.4%.
Bell is no stranger to being jilted at the polls. He lost:
- His congressional seat in the 2004 Democratic primary to Al Green after mid-decade redistricting driven by then-House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay cut up his district;
- A 2008 special election runoff for the Texas Senate to Republican Joan Hoffman;
- And ran fifth in the Houston mayor's race in 2015, which was eventually won by longtime Democratic State Rep. Sylvester Turner.
Should Bell decide to run, he wouldn't be alone. Already announced are M.J. Hegar, who lost a close race last year to Central Texas Republican U. S. Rep. John Carter, Sema Hernandez, Adrian Ocegueda and Michael Cooper.
Reported also considering the race are Houston City Councilmember Amanda Edwards and longtime Dallas Democratic state Sen. Royce West, whose four-year term isn't up until 2022, so he could run without sacrificing his current position.
Bell thinks Texas has a chance to swing to the Democrats next year and doesn't seem intimidated by the other hopefuls.
"I certainly think it's a field I could compete in," he told the Texas Tribune.