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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announces he will 'leave office as a Republican' in 2027

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson frequently has not stayed at council meetings from start to finish. He's been away more than any of the current council members.
Tony Gutierrez/AP
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson frequently has not stayed at council meetings from start to finish. He's been away more than any of the current council members.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, who served in the Texas legislature as a Democrat, has announced he is joining the Republican Party. That’s according to an opinion piece by Johnson published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal.

The opinion piece titled “America’s Cities Need Republicans, and I’m Becoming One”details Johnson’s reasons for leaving. Those include wanting to find “common-sense solutions” to political differences, striving for “law and order” and practicing fiscal conservatism.

“Our cities desperately need the genuine commitment to these principles…that has long been a defining characteristic of the GOP,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson was scheduled to speak at The Texas Tribune Festival on Friday morning. The session was described as "the Dallas mayor on his second-term agenda and keeping partisanship at bay."

In his opinion piece, Johnson said he believes mayors and elected officials have failed cities around the nation by not making public safety a priority. His most recent campaign was heavily geared toward reducing violent crime in the city.

The political party switch comes after an unsuccessful campaign to lower the city’s tax rate in an attempt to hold off what some call “a financial cliff.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was recently acquitted on numerous impeachment charges ranging from securities fraud to interfering in a federal probe, was one of the first to respond to Johnson's announcement.

"Welcome, Mayor!" Paxton tweeted Friday morning.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also chimed in on Johnson's party change.

"Texas is getting more Red everyday. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson switches to Republican party," Abbott said on Twitter. "He's pro law enforcement & won't tolerate leftist agendas."

Johnson invited Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to the Dallas City Council inauguration earlier this year. Johnson was sworn in by Cornyn while the rest of the council was sworn in by the municipal judge.

Reaction from some of the council members who've worked closely with Johnson since he was elected mayor in 2019 was less enthusiastic.

"Party affiliation plays no role in how I serve my District and work for all Dallas residents," District 9 Council Member Paula Blackmon told KERA. "I ran for municipal office because partisan politics should not play a motivating role in decisions affecting our residents. My work at Dallas City Hall most directly impacts the lives of everyday residents, and I show up every day to do the job they elected me to do."

KERA recently reported that Johnson has missed more than 130 hours of city council meetings since being elected mayor in 2019 — more than any of the current city council members. That’s according to a data analysis of attendance data recorded by the City Secretary’s Office.

District 1 Council Member Chad West said he would work with Johnson if he reaches out for nonpartisan consensus on a range of issues that reflect the values of the city and the council.

"Many, including myself, cherish that the coalitions and working groups that form among the Dallas city council members often transcend partisanship," West told KERA. "Every City Hall observer knows there have been many votes over the years in which its self-identified Democratic and Republican members split on issues as elected officials tried to do right by their districts rather than their parties.

West acknowledged that he remained "a steadfast and proud Democrat because of my values as a small business owner, military veteran, gay man, and father of two."

"I do not understand the mayor’s decision to switch parties in the era we find ourselves in, but I hope he uses this inflection point in his life to double down on the commitment he made to serve Dallas for the next four years as its mayor," he said.

The Dallas City Council voted on Wednesday to approve a multi-billion dollar budget that included a slightly lower tax rate — but not low enough for those who campaigned against the rate.

“In an environment of such economic uncertainty for our residents and businesses, with inflation and interest rates where thy are, I could not vote for a budget that is the largest in the history of the city and that is paid for by raising taxes,” Johnson tweeted after the vote.

Property tax relief was outlined in 2022 as one of many priorities of the Texas Republican Party.

"He has been spewing right wing catch-phrases and conservative policies since 2020, and I have been ringing the alarm," Jerry Hawkins, the director ofDallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, said of Johnson. "He has betrayed every Democratic voter that cast a vote for him, including me. ...I hope this is a wake-up to City of Dallas voters to be more vigilant and to be more engaged."

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

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Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Nathan Collins