Few are surprised at decision
By Kristina Dixon | Across Black America
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a longtime Democrat, is now a Republican–turning Dallas into the largest city in the country with a GOP mayor.
“Today I am changing my party affiliation,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed published Sept. 22 in The Wall Street Journal. “Next spring, I will be voting in the Republican primary. When my career in elected office ends in 2027 on the inauguration of my successor as mayor, I will leave office as a Republican.”
Johnson served in the Texas Legislature for nine years as a Democrat before he was elected as Dallas mayor in 2019. Though the mayor’s position is technically nonpartisan, Johnson joins Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker as one of two Republican mayors to lead a major Texas city.
Johnson’s switch came as little shock to Dallas political observers, who said he has been signaling for some time his leaning toward the GOP — and his distancing from Democrats.
“This is one of the worst kept secrets in the world of politics,” said Vinny Minchillo, a Dallas-area Republican consultant. “This has been coming down for a long time.”
State Rep. John Bryant, a Dallas Democrat, took to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to quip about Johnson’s announcement.
“Switching parties? I didn’t know he was a Democrat,” Bryant wrote.
In his op-ed, Johnson made the case for how his vision for Dallas aligns with the GOP, noting his support for law enforcement, low property taxes and fostering a business-friendly environment.
Over the course of his mayoral tenure, Johnson has enthusiastically backed anti-crime initiatives and developed a strong bond with Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia. He won reelection without opposition in May after sewing up the city’s business donor class, who often lean Republican, as well as the Dallas Police Association, the city’s police union.
“Mayors and other local elected officials have failed to make public safety a priority or to exercise fiscal restraint,” Johnson wrote in the op-ed. “Most of these local leaders are proud Democrats who view cities as laboratories for liberalism rather than as havens for opportunity and free enterprise.”
After his reelection this year, Johnson invited Texas’ two Republican U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, to attend his inauguration — which some observers complained improperly injected partisanship into a nonpartisan space.
Last week, Johnson, along with four other Dallas council members, voted against the city’s $4.8 billion budget because he believed it did not sufficiently cut the city’s property tax rate. Cutting property taxes is a darling issue for the state’s top Republicans.
“Too often, local tax dollars are spent on policies that exacerbate homelessness, coddle criminals and make it harder for ordinary people to make a living,” Johnson wrote in the op-ed. “And too many local Democrats insist on virtue signaling–proposing half-baked government programs that aim to solve every single societal ill–and on finding new ways to thumb their noses at Republicans at the state or federal level.”
Johnson’s party switch immediately makes him one of the most prominent Black Republicans in the country, a list that also includes South Carolina senator and presidential candidate Tim Scott and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Black voters still vote overwhelmingly Democratic, though the GOP has made gains among Black men in recent years.
Dallas is solidly Democratic, however. Dallas County went heavily for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, with Biden carrying the county by more than 30 percentage points. Some local politicians said Johnson’s decision puts him out of step with the city’s voters.