Texas Rep. Eric Johnson makes surprise announcement: He’s running for Dallas mayor

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Story by Gromer Jeffers, Jr., Political Writer
Dallasnews.com
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State Rep. Eric Johnson announced Tuesday that he's running for Dallas mayor.

Johnson's surprise announcement comes early in the legislative session after his re-election, which did not draw any major opponents. He will join a crowded field of candidates — including some financial and political heavyweights — vying to replace term-limited Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Johnson, a lawyer, said in a news release that he will "offer the citizens of Dallas a unique combination of experience, energy, and creativity when it comes to solving problems, along with a proven track record of working well with people from varying backgrounds in order to accomplish great things."

He has represented House District 100 since 2010, when the Democrat replaced Terri Hodge, who resigned after a bribery conviction. The district includes chunks of West Dallas, South Dallas, the Cedars and eastern Dallas as it runs along the Interstate 30 corridor and part of the Interstate 45 corridor.

"I have represented one of the most diverse House districts in the state for nearly a decade and I've shown that I can bring people together to get the job done for all of our families," Johnson said.

The legislative sessions started this month and will run through May. Johnson said Tuesday that he will continue to represent District 100.

"I will not be resigning to run for mayor," he told The Dallas Morning News. "I plan to work harder and be more effective down in Austin than I've ever been. I have an energy and passion for public service that is hard to put into words."

Johnson has had a significant political presence in Dallas politics in recent years. He weighed in on the debate over the future of the Garland-Gaston-Grand intersection — commonly known as 3G — and, along with Rawlings, lamented allegations of voter fraud in a West Dallas council race.

Last session, Johnson pushed for a plan that would send some tax dollars from Trinity Groves to nearby neighborhoods to help address affordable housing and displacement issues. Johnson also has ties to Khraish Khraish, who runs rental property group HMK. Khraish became locked in a fight with City Hall in 2017 after threatening to shut down hundreds of homes in West Dallas over the city's rental code changes.

Larry Casto, the former city attorney, briefly campaigned on a tax plan similar to Johnson's. But after a poor fundraising start, Casto dropped out of the mayor's last week and endorsed Design District developer Mike Ablon.

At the state level, Johnson recently gained attention for his crusade against a historically inaccurate plaque about the Confederacy in the Texas Capitol. The plaque was removed this month. During that battle last year, he announced he was a candidate for House speaker. But he eventually threw his support behind the new speaker, Republican Dennis Bonnen.

The Democrat also was a potential candidate for the District 30 seat in Congress held by Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. But Johnson, the longtime congressional incumbent, opted to serve at least one more term.

Dallas' next mayor might have to deal with the city's remaining symbols of the Confederacy, including the memorial outside City Hall.

Johnson will compete against a field that includes Ablon, Johnson's former House colleague Jason Villalba, City Council member Scott Griggs, Young Women's Preparatory Network CEO Lynn McBee, businessman Albert Black Jr., Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, Dallas lawyer and former Clinton administration aide Regina Montoya and 2016 Socialist Workers Party presidential nominee Alyson Kennedy.

National Football Hall of Famer and Dallas Cowboys legend Mel Renfro is Johnson's campaign treasurer.

"I've been around winners all my life, from winning football state championships in high school to winning two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, so I know a winner when I see one," Renfro said. "Eric Johnson is a winner and he'll be a great mayor."

Johnson, a Greenhill School graduate who went on to earn degrees from Harvard, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, said he's ready to help move the city forward.

"Dallas is a great city, but we have some serious challenges ahead of us," he said. "We need to make sure that the Dallas of tomorrow is full of opportunity for everyone. It's time to move beyond the old divisions at City Hall and work together toward real solutions. If we do, Dallas will be a city of strong, safe neighborhoods where families thrive and where every child has the opportunities to succeed that I enjoyed growing up in this incredible city."