For Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney, every election cycle seems like the toughest one when you’re in the middle of it.
“And then a couple weeks go by and people go back to summer and Frisco’s always come back together in the end,” he said.
On the heels of a contentious June 5 runoff election, Frisco is looking to put the pieces back together after over 13,000 people came out to vote either for Jennifer White or Angelia Pelham as their next councilwoman. When it comes to doing that this time around, Cheney said, Frisco will do it as it has always done it.
That involves Pelham, who won the runoff race with 53% of the votes, reaching out to the people who didn’t support her, Cheney said, and that also means those who didn’t win telling their supporters that Frisco is better when the community works together.
“It’s continuing to have those conversations,” Cheney said. “I do feel confident that as people begin to see Angelia in action that, even if they did not support her in this election cycle, they’ll see that she was the right choice for Frisco.”
For Cheney, who endorsed Pelham, there are both positive and negative aspects of Frisco’s most recent election cycle. On the plus side, 13,289 Frisco residents voted in the runoff, almost breaking an all-election record and blasting expectations for a runoff election that had been predicted to garner roughly 7,000 voters. By comparison, just 10,000 had voted in the May 1 election.
“I hope that that continues and that we continue to see this level of engagement and turnout and people realize that they can make a difference by showing up to vote,” Cheney said.
The trend Cheney hopes does not continue is one that Frisco saw in November, too, when local races, traditionally nonpartisan, were stacked in with partisan national and state elections. The inclusion of partisan rhetoric in a local race extended into this year’s elections, too.
“I don’t think trying to put a candidate in a box like that, in a label, while it may be important to a voter as far as how they voted in presidential elections, to just say because of that ‘This is who the person is,’ I think really discredits the candidates themselves,” Cheney said, “and so I hope to see people kind of get to know the candidates more.”
He added that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there hadn’t been as many forums as usual that gave residents the chance to hear from candidates.
“I think future election cycles will get back to where you have to stand up in front of the public and speak about your policies, you know, multiple times a week and where the voters get to hear you multiple different times and those messages get out,” he said.
When it came to the June 5 election cycle, some campaign rhetoric roped Cheney into the conversation.
Posts from White’s campaign page on Facebook that indicated the mayor had a “potential financial interest” with certain projects or developers without disclosing them or recusing himself and alleged that the mayor had helped recruit a previous City Council candidate were met with rebuttals from Cheney, who accused the page of slander and lying.
“I will answer your slanderous accusation directly here,” Cheney stated on White’s campaign page on May 20. “I do not have any financial interests as you indicate. I disclose all of my assets as required by state law and you can go get them from the city secretary even to the detail of my kids' 529 (savings) plans. I have recused myself in the past even in instances I was not required to.”
By late May, both Cheney and White’s campaign stated on social media that they would consider filing ethics complaints.
“It seemed to turn into a campaign strategy to discredit the endorsement a little bit by trying to discredit me,” Cheney said.
Cheney said he knew what would be coming if he chose to publicly endorse Pelham, and he was prepared.
“I do think some of the things crossed the line, especially when it started involving my family and threats that we received and other things,” he said, “but in my opinion, this race was worth fighting for, worth standing up for.”
Now, Cheney said he is looking forward to Pelham getting sworn in.
“I’ve seen other successful communities quickly diminish because of politics, and it can happen overnight, we’ve seen it with neighboring cities and other cities in this region, and we have so much going for us as a city and so much opportunity before us, so we’re really just getting started, that I know Frisco made the right choice to keep us moving in that right direction.”