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District 4 runoff candidates meet in a debate as early voting gets underway

Carolyn King Arnold (at left) and Keyaira D. Saunders (middle) respond to questions from event moderator Cydney Walker during a forum held at the Moorland Family YMCA Tuesday night. The two are vying to replace Dwaine Caraway at the District 4 seat on the Dallas City Council. (Photo: David Wilfong)

The race ultimately could come down to whether voters trust an experienced hand in the process or are looking for a change. The two remaining candidates in the District 4 race represent both ends of the spectrum.

By David Wilfong, North Dallas Gazette Contributing Writer

A crowd of about 100 District 4 residents gathered at the Moorland Family YMCA on Tuesday night to hear from the two candidates vying for the district’s seat on the Dallas City Council. Carolyn King Arnold and Keyaira D. Saunders are the two surviving candidates in a runoff for the position which originally featured more than a dozen challengers.

The event was presented by Coffee & Politics 101 and was hosted by Cydney Walker.

It is a sensitive race for the district as it was necessary following the resignation of sitting councilperson Dwaine Caraway amid a criminal conviction for corruption charges stemming from the now-defunct Dallas County Schools. The district has now been without representation on the council for more than 100 days.

Key issues of concern for the residents of District 4 are gentrification (and the potential impact of a planned deck park over IH-35), the effects of police brutality and the corresponding shortage of police in the city, and a lack of attention to infrastructure and development in the district. Both candidates asserted that they were aware of and understood the issues and vowed to serve the best interest of the residents in those regards.

The race ultimately could come down to whether voters trust an experienced hand in the process or are looking for a change. The two remaining candidates in the District 4 race represent both ends of the spectrum.

While there is no incumbent in the race, Arnold has served on the city council before. She replaced Caraway, who had reached term limits, besting a field of eight candidates in 2015 (including Saunders). Arnold lost her seat when Caraway returned from term limit hiatus in 2017. Arnold sees her previous experience on the council as a definite incentive for voters to return her to her previous seat, citing the relationships she already has at city hall. Experience is one of the factors considered when the North Dallas Gazette endorsed Arnold during the general election.

“It takes eight votes to move an item,” Arnold said. “I have those eight votes today.”

Before going on the city council for the first time, Arnold was an educator, beginning her career in Dallas at Bishop Dunne Catholic School and ending with opening the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center. On the community side, she is the president of the Glen Oaks HOA and the Oak Cliff Leadership Council.

“I can tell you that I’ve always had this political profile if you will,” Arnold said. “From the time I was a young girl in elementary school, folks still tease me about how often I’d get in trouble defending the rights of others. So, I’m very comfortable with that profile, very comfortable with wearing that armor.”

Saunders is a professional photographer, mother of three and a nine-year resident of District 4. Recently, Saunders has been active supporting Democratic candidates in their election efforts. She is active in the TLMBC Community Development Corporation, the NAACP and the ACLU.

She was instrumental in devising the “Kelly Alert,” a program for notification and action when adults aged 21-45 go missing. More well known to the residents of District 4, she is a founding member of the Next Generation Action Network, a lobbying group for social action, change and equality.

Saunders’ key phrase is “reform, reform, reform.” She is calling on voters to reject the “status quo.” On that account, she rejects the idea that Arnold’s previous experience on the council is a reason for voters to send her back to the horseshoe.

“We hear so much about ‘hit the ground running’,” Saunders said. “Everything has changed since 2017. It’s not the same. Everything is different, so to say you’re going to hit the ground running that’s an overstatement. … Not just talking about experience, we need effective experience. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been on this Earth. It’s about the work that we put in to be effective. People’s lives are on the line right now. This is not a show.”

The runoff election will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Early voting has already begun and continues until Dec. 7.

 

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