Just one minute after participating in a One-on-One panel discussion at the Texas Tribune Festival, in which Dallas Mayor, Eric Johnson, spoke on all matters partisan, his excitement toward reelection, and the current state of Texas’s climate, the Wall Street Journal pushed publish on an unexpected piece he’d written. In the article titled “America’s Cities Need Republicans, and I’m Becoming One” Mayor Johnson announces just that. A tonal shift in his political dealings, and a stake-changing decision. Though he’d previously identified as nonpartisan, and even partaken in Democratic solidarity for years on the Texas Legislature, he was now announcing himself a born-again Republican. Leaving no one more shocked than his previous voters, who’d re-elected the Mayor just three months prior.
The following panel? A One-on-One conversation with Houston Mayor and Democrat, Sylvester Turner, who’d known Mayor Johnson for years. As an expert moderator, and Co-Founder of the Texas Tribune, Evan Smith had an obvious first question, “So look something just happened that I have to ask you about before we get into the conversation. Literally just happened. So before Mayor and I were here, Mayor Johnson of Dallas was up here with Chad Hasty being interviewed. And that conversation ended at 10 O’Clock. At 10:01 our time, an Op-Ed published in the Wall Street Journal [announced] Mayor Johnson switched parties. Right after his session. That is not an accident, I feel sure that that thing published at that time. The subhead of this Op-Ed is While Dallas has thrived, elsewhere Democratic Policies have exasperated crime and homelessness–he has switched parties. Mr. Mayor, your reaction to your colleague Mayor Johnson switching parties?”
In reply, Mayor Turner gave what I can only describe as a bombastic side-eye. While the crowd erupted in giggles Smith chirped up, “You’re not running again–speak your truth. C’mon!” After such prompting Turner stated, “No, I mean a part of my silence was intentional. You know, Mayor Johnson and I served in legislature together for many years, of course now overlapping. With him being Mayor of Dallas, me in Houston. Disappointing–disappointing. And it’s not like Democratic mayors have exasperated crime or homelessness. The city of Houston leads the nation in reducing homelessness. You come to the city of Houston since 2012 we’ve reduced homelessness by 65%, 30% since I’ve been Mayor. There are less than 3,000 people on our streets.”
Mayor Turner continued to list the Democratic successes stating, “If he wants to leave a thriving ship to get on a sinking one, you know sometimes people make decisions for various reasons. So, I respect his personal decision, but I will tell you when you look at San Antonio and Austin and Houston all across the state of Texas, I think you will find that Mayors and Democratic Mayors are doing an exceptional job all across this country.”