Voter forums being organized

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An Austin-area businessman is organizing local voter forums in several Texas cities, in hopes that more people will register to vote in time for local elections.

Victor D. Dunn has been troubled that people turn out for presidential elections, but seem to believe local elections don’t matter and take the outcome for granted.

“The tax rates and local services affect lives more than state and national elections do,” Dunn said. “It’s where the rubber meets the road.”

Dunn runs a travel business, organizing bus trips to college and pro football games. But since the primary election in Gregg County, he has been organizing public forums for local elections under the umbrella of a nonpartisan group, the Texas Voters Alliance.

“We don’t endorse; we have no agenda; we only seek to educate voters,” Dunn said.

He is scheduling as many events as he can before April 10, which is the last day for residents to register to vote for the May 10 election. Early voting begins April 28.

He has been working in communities where he has some familiarity, he said. In addition to forums where he lives and works now — Round Rock and Waco — he grew up in Gregg County, so he has organized events in Kilgore, Longview, Tyler and Marshall. He went to school in Denton, hence his efforts here, he said.

All of the Denton candidates have agreed to participate in a forum scheduled for 6 p.m. April 3, Dunn said.

The group has secured a small room at the University of North Texas for the event, but Dunn is hoping to secure a larger space through the political science department. He said he plans to announce the final location soon. The group has a public Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/texas.voters.alliance.

Each election season in Denton, a number of community groups invite candidates to speak, but only a handful of the forums are open to the public. Dunn hopes to make the event accessible to students, reminding them to check their voter registration before it’s too late, since some may be registered to vote at their permanent address, rather than their school address.

Three candidates filed to replace outgoing Mayor Mark Burroughs: Jean Schaake, 70, an associate dean at the University of North Texas; Chris Watts, 52, an attorney and real estate developer; and radio host Donna Woodfork, 44. Burroughs has reached his term limit.

For Place 6, local real estate developer Gregory Johnson, 45, is unopposed, although Brendan Carroll’s name will still appear on the ballot. Carroll, 44, a technology consultant, withdrew from the race too late for the city to make that change.

For the at-large Place 5 seat, Dalton Gregory, 61, a retired elementary school principal and current city council member, will face local businesswoman Hatice Salih, 55. Place 5 incumbent Pete Kamp has also reached her term limits.

Also on the ballot will be a special election for the District 2 seat now held by Gregory. Two local businessmen — Glen Farris, 34, and John Ryan, 48 — have filed to replace Gregory, who has resigned his seat effective with the canvassing of the May 10 election to run for Place 5.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter @phwolfeDRC.


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