DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - With the Dallas skyline behind them, seven Dallas City Council members joined Mayor Mike Rawlings in backing State Representative Eric Johnson over fellow Council Member Scott Griggs in the runoff for Dallas mayor.
"He's a remarkable person. Dallas is very lucky to have him as a candidate and I ask every citizen to come out and vote for Eric Johnson as mayor," said Mayor Rawlings.
During the afternoon news conference, Council Members Jennifer Gates, Lee Kleinman, Mayor Pro Tem Casey Thomas, Tennell Atkins, Carolyn King Arnold, Rick Callahan and Adam McGough took turns praising Johnson.
Mayor Rawlings said the city is on a roll and that only Johnson could continue that progress. "What happened in the last eight years is a story of significant growth that we have never seen in Dallas. Never has the city grown this fast on this big of a base. I believe Eric Johnson will continue that momentum. I fear because of what his opponent has said, is that he doesn't understand the ethos in what makes Dallas work."
Griggs has said he wants to refocus the city away from the pricey, big projects such as the Calatrava bridges and toward basic city services: including public safety and parks and recreation.
Johnson has said the city needs to focus on the basics and still dream big.
Rawlings agreed. "We gotta think big. We've got big issues and we need somebody who's creative enough to do that. We've got to make sure we don't send a signal to those people who are investing in Dallas that somehow they're going to have issues in City Hall."
Three former mayors, Steve Bartlett, Ron Kirk and Tom Leppert have also endorsed Johnson, along with five Dallas ISD Trustees, and some state lawmakers.
Council Member Adam McGough praised Johnson. "You want somebody who's going to bring people together to lead in a way that will move this city forward."
Council Member Tennell Atkins agreed. "We have been divided among the Council. We need someone to bring unity back to the City Council."
Council Member Jennifer Gates said, "Being a consensus builder, being able to work with all leaders from around the city is going to make us successful and make Dallas a better place."
For his part, Griggs has won the backing of the Dallas Police Association and the Dallas Fire Fighters Association because of his work on the city council.
Mike Mata, President of the Dallas Police Association said, "He has already endorsed and helped the police officers with our pension, with our pay. He's helped with recruiting, he's helped with the infrastructure of the city itself."
Jim McDade, President of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association said, "Scott has an eight year track record of serving the city of Dallas, of working with us, of meeting with us and listening to the needs of the firefighters and police officers in the city and he's addressed those needs over time."
At a forum Monday sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association, Griggs said he built a consensus on the council to save the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund when it was going broke and around making changes at Visit Dallas, the city's convention and visitors bureau, after a city audit sharply criticized the lack of oversight in the agency.
But without ever mentioning Griggs' name, Mayor Rawlings questioned his leadership style. "These leaders in Dallas want a uniter and they want a leader around that horseshoe. We do not need a divider, we do not need someone who critiques, but leads. The lack of grabbing hold of issues when he chaired important committees and couldn't get things done."
As for Eric Johnson, he said the endorsements by the mayor and council members aren't a political statement as much as they are about a love for Dallas. "Together, we will move the city in the right direction. We will continue down the path Mayor Rawlings has set out. The city is moving in the right direction. Things are good in Dallas. Don't be fooled."
Early voting runs between May 28 and June 4.
Election Day is Saturday, June 8.
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