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CBS11 bungles Dallas mayor's race

He who laughs last. Tom Leppert (left) defeated Ed Oakley to become Dallas' new mayor. Only one D-FW television station cared enough to pay much attention during Saturday's 10 p.m. newscasts.

OK, the voter turnout was lousy and the margin of victory turned out to be pretty lopsided despite an earlier poll forecasting a photo finish.

It is, however, a pretty big deal when Dallas elects a new mayor. All of our local TV stations once thought so, too. In fact it used to be a competitive badge of honor to get the first live interviews with both the winning and losing candidates.

Saturday's election coverage showed how little it matters any more. Among the three stations with 10 p.m. newscasts -- Fox4 had a network commitment to Mad TV -- Only Belo8 even bothered to snag live one-on-one interviews with victorious Tom Leppert and vanquished Ed Oakley.

The station also cared enough to send seasoned veterans Brad Watson and Chris Heinbaugh to the candidates' respective campaign headquarters. They had the added advantage of actually knowing what they were talking about.

CBS11 in contrast deployed relative newcomer Kimberly Ball, whose report from Leppert's victory party got more inept by the second.

Ball began by blowing the name of the anchor who introduced her report. "Well, Kaushal," she began, referring to CBS11's Kaushal Patel. But it was Ginger Allen back in the studio.

"The energy in this room is absolutely electric right now," Ball then told viewers before proceeding to talk over Leppert's opening words to his supporters.

She just kept going, oblivious to the candidate behind her. Instead viewers got this word jumble: "He (Leppert) said he is ready to shed -- shake Ed Oakley's hand, as that he did admit defeat to him already this evening."

Ball had only a few more seconds of air time, so never mind Leppert's ongoing live remarks. Instead she concluded, "Again tonight, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Tom Leppert is the victory (sic)."

Back in the studio, anchor Allen hesitated briefly, resisting what must have been an overwhelming urge to ask, "What the hell was that?" She then threw it to CBS11 vet Steve Pickett, who did an OK job of rehashing what Oakley earlier had told his supporters. The station also ran a brief clip of Oakley speaking for himself, in the end giving the loser about twice as much air time as Leppert.

NBC5 sent the seasoned Ken Kalthoff to Leppert's HQ. He had the good sense to say, "Let's listen," when the mayor-elect began his live remarks. Reporter David Quinlan handled the Oakley side of the story.

Neither CBS11 or the Peacock bothered to get any fresh live interviews with the candidates during their 10 p.m. newscasts. Dallas' mayoral election outcome got prominent but notably abbreviated play. The stations then quickly segued to crime, tragedy and comedian D.L. Hughley, whose Saturday night performance in Fort Worth drew protests after his pointed remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team on a May edition of The Tonight Show.

Belo8's Watson, accustomed to fighting for position on past election nights, had Leppert all to himself this time out. Ditto Heinbaugh with Oakley.

It didn't used to be this way. Not so long ago, all of the local TV stations took pride in trying hard on election nights. On Saturday only Belo8 came armed with much more than a popgun. CBS11 countered with Silly String.