The Wild Race For Mayor In Amarillo In 2011
With Mayor Nelson's recent announcement that she will not be seeking reelection in Amarillo, the obvious next question is..."who's gonna run for mayor?"
As many of us are looking ahead, I'm reminded of the last time the title of Mayor was up for grabs. On its face, it should have been an absolute circus of a race and the candidates were all incredibly interesting for various reasons.
Do you remember the wild race for mayor in 2011?
In 2011, Like Now, An Incumbent Mayor Decided Not To Seek Reelection
This is what opened the door for a memorable cast of candidates. The incumbent mayor at the time, Mayor Debra McCart, had decided not to run again. With no incumbent to conquer, the seat was wide open for the taking.
The race would make national headlines thanks to two candidates. David Grisham and Sandra Dunn.
Religious Fanaticism And Panhandle Politics Collide
David Grisham's name was one that the people of Amarillo were already familiar with. Even though this was five years before his infamous "Santa Isn't Real" stunt, he was already stirring the pot and pissing people off.
He called for the boycott of Houston over their election of an openly gay mayor. Grisham also had attempted to burn a copy of the Quran at a park in Amarillo, mirroring a pastor from Florida. Grisham was less than successful when his copy of the Quran was stolen while he was busy arguing with protestors.
David Grisham was also the head of the group Repent Amarillo, which made a habit out of harassing people in the name of the Lord. They were aggressive, verbally abusive, and an overall pain in the butt for many.
Amarillo's First Trans Candidate For Mayor, Sandra Dunn
It had to happen. In order to satisfy the cosmic order of things, there had to be someone who could stand as the antithesis of David Grisham. That wound up being Sandra Dunn. The news hit of her decision to run ten days after ol' Dave.
Sandra admitted that David's decision to run is partially what inspired her friends to encourage her to run. Dunn also said the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she possessed the necessary education and experience to be mayor.
The stage was set in early 2011 for an interesting battle for the title of mayor in Amarillo. News outlets all over began running stories about the "crazy pastor versus the transgender woman."
While everyone was focused on these two, there was a third option. Paul Harpole, a former city commissioner and car dealership owner.
Rallies, A Firing, A Tidal Wave Of Candidates, And A Rather Underwhelming Finish
Repent Amarillo wound up holding a rally in May of 2011. Police were on hand. Grisham was there, in the midst of his run for mayor.
A counter group, Amarillo Citizens Against Repent Amarillo (ACARA), was there for the rally. According to news reports at the time, ACARA's numbers were much larger than the number of supporters on hand for Grisham's rally.
Grisham would also find himself in the news for getting fired from his job as a security officer at Pantex. Not a good look for someone who is wanting to run the city.
There would be several other candidates join the race. All in all, there were eleven people who ran for mayor. William Jean was another candidate you can still find news articles about from that race.
But it wouldn't be Sandra, David, or William who would go down in history as the next mayor of Amarillo. No, it was Paul Harpole who walked away as victor. His closest competitor was Roy D. McDowell.
As we look to the future and who will fill the role left by Mayor Nelson, I'm more concerned with the outcome than the spectacle. Still, it would be a very "Amarillo" type thing to do if we, as Bonnie Raitt so eloquently put it, give 'em something to talk about.