Dallas chooses ex-Pizza Hut executive as next mayor

DALLAS Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:40pm EDT

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DALLAS (Reuters) - Dallas voters chose a former pizza chain executive over an ex-police chief on Saturday as the city's new mayor.

Mike Rawlings, the former chief executive who was credited with reversing the fortune of the Pizza Hut chain, won the support of voters apparently swayed by his strong business message as new economic reports showed job growth cooling in Texas.

"I think Dallas is an optimistic city, a can-do city and my message that we can have growth and quality of life together is a message voters want to believe," said Rawlings, 56.

Rawlings prevailed over ex-police chief David Kunkle in Saturday's nonpartisan runoff election. The two were the top vote-getters in a field of four in the May 13 regular election for the top elected job in the country's ninth largest city.

Kunkle conceded the election as votes came in late Saturday. "I called David and offered congratulations on his victory," Kunkle said.

With 99 percent of the precincts counted, Rawlings held a commanding lead of 56 percent to 44 percent.

Rawlings had drawn the most votes in May 13 election but not enough to avoid a runoff with Kunkle, a career police officer who served as Dallas police chief for six years and is credited with reducing the crime rate and making Dallas a safer city.

Kunkle enjoyed greater name recognition but Rawlings raised more than $2 million in campaign contributions and far outspent Kunkle, who raised about $200,000. Kunkle ran a largely grassroots campaign, focused on strengthening neighborhoods and improving roads and utilities.

Rawlings succeeds former mayor Tom Leppert, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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