Op-ed: Dallas media biased and mean when covering City Council elections

Running for office is not easy—I’ve done it twice. It consumes most of a candidate’s time, resources and energy. Most people know this and thank candidates for trying to make their community better, regardless of their political views. Why isn’t this true for our local media?

D Magazine’s Peter Simek seems more interested in trapping the once-important magazine in a toxic media bubble. The journalism that is failing our communities comes from writers like Peter who form opinions based on their limited personal experiences, and add snark to form click-bait for their publications. They are engaged in entertainment masquerading as journalism.

I had a long chat after my defeat in the May 1 election for Dallas City Council with a sitting council member to determine why I lost. It turns out I could have handed out a $100 bill for every vote I received and saved a lot of money on mailers and other expenses—not a legal campaign approach, but it makes an important point about the cost and seeming futility of running against the political winds.

In 2017, I did better against an incumbent who deployed all the usual tricks, like stealing my signs and telling businesses with my signs up to take them down. I got almost 38% of the vote as a novice candidate. Of course, I did not have to contend with negative and personal stories about me in D Magazine in that first race.

I first committed to running for office because of a 2017 phone call from Wick Allison, the late and great founding publisher of D Magazine. He invited me to his office and convinced me to run. He boosted and supported me, gave me advice, courage and contributions. After my loss, he sent me an invigorating letter that I’ve saved. Two years later, in 2019, we discussed my running again and Wick advised me to wait for the next good opportunity.

That opportunity came in 2021 when a council seat was wide open. With the incumbent, Lee Kleinman out of the picture, I thought the playing field would be level. Not so! I watched the incumbent practically carry voters to the polling booth to support one of my opponents, Jaynie Schultz. He worked the polls for at least six hours at Fretz Park. While Dallas media roundly criticized Mayor Eric Johnson for endorsing his friends in some races, none objected to even more active efforts by incumbent council members for their favored candidates.

With Hispanic group endorsements, I anticipated that I would finish in third place at worst. While Jaynie had the incumbent working for her, another candidate, Barry Wernick, had police endorsements. In fact, third place went to a very interesting young candidate who out-performed me in a largely conservative district. Hosanna Yemiru is worth a story on her own. The journalist in me paid close attention to every voter who gave her the “I’m voting for you” wave, many coming to the polls in expensive autos.

She was the most Progressive Left of four candidates, espousing a salaried Civilian Police Review Board, city funded legal aid for tenants, “holistic” policing, and more affordable housing. Many wealthy North Dallas residents—the same ones who forward their property tax bills to consultants who go to battle for them—loved her. They bought into her story, which is a remarkable one. She immigrated to the U.S. at age 11 from Ethiopia, is a product of Dallas public schools and city services, and determined she wants to give back to the city that welcomed her.

Hosanna is brilliant and a great example of how our public schools and educational system can work. She is the American Dream. She also has two journalist parents who invested deeply in their children while holding down multiple jobs.

Rather than reporting on her story, or on worthy stories surrounding the other candidates, Peter Simek cared only about how much each candidate “paid” in election expenses per vote received, as if this is the right measure of any candidate.

He must have spent hours doing the math.  As evidence of his disinterest in actual journalism, he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that there are three expense reporting periods in every City Council campaign. The last one, due July 15, provides the information actually needed for his reporting, since most candidates spend the bulk of their budgets two weeks before the election. Simek’s reporting is simply fact-less.

If he is not interested in journalism the way Wick—who sadly passed away in September—would have preferred, what is his interest?   Apparently, he prefers leading D Magazine’s Mean Boys club, posting about me only that “Candace Evans is an awful candidate.” Of course he provided a rationale for his snark: “This is her second run for the District 11 seat and her campaign chest balance basically consisted of a $40,000 personal loan. She spent all of it and walked away with a whopping 486 votes … I hope she had fun and drove clicks to her real estate website.”

The current publisher, Christine Allison, had him edit his post and responded to my pointing out that his facts were wrong with, “he’s been hearing that all afternoon.”

Wick Allison would be dismayed at the state of journalism in Dallas. So should every citizen, especially if they are running for office or engaging in other efforts to make our city better. How many votes would these journalists get if they ran for office? I bet they would need to pay more than $100 each.

Candace Evans is the publisher, creator and founder of CandysDirt.com.

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