This week, Allyn Media President & CEO Mari Woodlief and Senior Vice President Brian Mayes were praised as the “Best Team Effort” by Capitol Inside’s Mike Hailey for Allyn Media’s hand in Jason Villalba’s Campaign. Here is the article!
Best Team Effort - Mari Woodlief, Brian Mayes
The day after a surprising victory in a Republican runoff in an open Texas House race, Dallas attorney Jason Villalba couldn’t have found more people to thank if he’d just claimed a top prize at the annual Academy Awards ceremony. But Villalba’s campaign had been a relatively major production for a legislative contest with an ensemble cast of A-list Republicans and supporting characters in a host of important roles in a contest that had undertones on political correctness and potential implications on the GOP’s future in Texas beyond the Dallas suburbs where it unfolded.
While Villalba was the obvious star as a candidate who was hoping to do his best Rocky impersonation as the underdog in the GOP runoff in House District 114, the show would only be as good as the choreographers who happen to be award-winning consultants at the Dallas firm… Allyn Media associates Mari Woodlief and Brian Mayes had the task of collaborating on the Villalba campaign as its chief advisers – a role they’ve performed as a duo with a significant measure of success in recent years in legislative races in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But the consultants from Allyn’s shop knew at the start of the first act that Villalba would need all the help he could get in a battle for the House in a primary fight against Dallas Republican Bill Keffer – a former Texas House member who’d won two races for the lower chamber before losing twice to the same Democrat in a district with similar demographics next door in an aging suburban area north of downtown in north central Dallas County. As a House member during a four-year stint that ended in 2007, Keffer had represented a substantial portion of the voters in the redesigned version of HD 114 where veteran Republican State Rep. Will Hartnett decided not to run again. And Keffer would have probably still been a member of the House today if he hadn’t had the misfortune of being challenged in his bid for a third term six years ago in a swing district by a Democrat who’d just come home from an assignment in the heart of the war in Iraq.
But Keffer had more cause for optimism this time around in a GOP primary fight in fairly familiar territory that contained some of his old constituents – and while Villalba had the potential to be a very formidable foe – the former lawmaker could expect to have a supercharged tea party in his corner for the first-round election that he led with more than 47 percent of the vote and the runoff that he appeared to enter with the inside track all to himself.
Villalba, an attorney at the Haynes & Boone law firm, had less than two months to make up a six-point initial deficit and plenty of reason to think that would be a difficult challenge in light of a hard-shift to the right that the GOP had been experienced across the nation during the first half of the year. But Woodlief and Mayes had summoned the calvary to HD 114 during round one and would do what they could to ensure that ample reinforcements would be there for the runoff. As Keffer staked out a predictable position to the right, GOP heavy-hitters who’ve been fixtures in the party establishment rallied vigorously behind Villalba partly because they think he’d make a good legislator but also because he’s a Hispanic in a state that has a Latino population majority on the not-so-distant horizon. Some Republicans are concerned that the party will be relegated back to minority status without a concerted effort to bring Hispanic voters into the fold in a way that’s more successful than diversity campaigns that the GOP has announced in the past with fanfare but failed to back up with all of its might.
Villalba correctly assumed that he probably couldn’t win if he didn’t do everything he could think of to persuade potential runoff voters that he’s a genuine conservative despite the lack of significant support on the right. But he attempted to color himself conservative at the same time he had a parade on marquee party players who’ve been branded in the past as RINOs by conservative critics filing into HD 114 to help him raise cash and appeal for support. Villalba’s who’s who endorsement list featured U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, State Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, former Dallas mayor and recent U.S. Senate contender Tom Leppert and Dallas Cowboys legendary ex-quarterback Roger Staubach. And Villalba landed an endorsement that would have been the ultimate plum in many other states when presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney declared his support and made a compelling pitch on why he’d offered it when he had more pressing matters on his own plate.
Villalba’s role as the establishment preference in the GOP runoff in north Dallas was cemented all the more when statewide groups representing doctors, realtors and hospitals banded behind him along with pro-education advocates who’ve been radioactive in Republican primaries at times as a result of the fact that they tend to support Democrats more when given the choice. The biggest individual Republican donor of them all in Texas – Houston home builder Bob Perry – was one of Villalba’s most generous supporters.
But this was a multi-dimensional program if there’d ever been one on the legislative stage in Texas – and the Hispanic Republicans of Texas PAC that’s led by Trey Newton had rarely if ever been as all in on a campaign as the group turned out to be with Villalba. Newton – appropriately – was one of the people who Villalba directed his post-runoff expression of deep gratitude on his web site. Villaba – a former Dallas GOP vice-chair who’d led the county chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly – mentioned campaign manager Kim Garza Turner, grassroots coordinator Linda Rogers and Dallas County Commissioner Cecile Newberry Fernandez.
But he listed Woodlief first in the debt of gratitude society – and that means a lot when you consider how many folks had a helping hand in a runoff election that Villabla went on to win with almost 52 percent of the vote.