Anna Casey, a political consultant known for managing the successful campaigns of numerous Dallas council members that challenged the city’s business and political establishment, has died, the Dallas County medical examiner’s office confirmed. She was 61.
The veteran consultant was poised to work on the mayoral campaign of former Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, who earlier this week announced he would not run against incumbent Eric Johnson in May. Hinojosa said Casey’s death had nothing to do with his decision not to run for mayor.
In recent weeks Casey, who was in failing health, released all of her 2024 consulting clients. Many of them called her during her final hours, according to several people.
Hinojosa on Thursday said Casey was a “voice for the underserved” and a “force to be reckoned with.”
“She was intense. Sometimes she was a pistol, but she was our pistol,” he said. “She found a way to get things done and she knew how to win. She rubbed people the wrong way sometimes, but then she was courageous and she was the real deal and I’m going to miss her.”
Casey was known as a tough, brash politico who often clashed with the city’s business elite. She spoke with a distinctive raspy drawl and would verbally spar with opponents at meetings and events. Supporters and rivals said she played to win.
She was an organization leader in the long fight against the original Trinity toll road project proposal, an issue that divided Dallas for years. After two decades of grassroots opposition, Dallas officials in 2017 scrapped the proposed 9-mile-long parkway between the river’s levees that would have run from Interstate 35E and State Highway 183 in the north to U.S. Highway 175 southwest of downtown. It was a victory for Casey and the council candidates she helped elect.
Over the years many of her candidates, including former council members Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs, were opposed to the mayor in power or the business establishment. Casey was their behind-the-scenes enforcer. Griggs lost a 2019 mayoral race to Johnson.
In recent years Casey was instrumental in helping progressive candidates get elected to the City Council. She managed or advised on the campaigns of council members including Chad West, Paul Ridley, Jesse Moreno, Adam Bazaldua and Omar Narvaez. In 2021, Casey-backed council members tried unsuccessfully to put her on the city’s redistricting commission.
“They respected her ability to get things done,” Hinojosa said. “Even though it was a little volatile sometimes and it wasn’t always done in a very professional way, she made people pay attention because she was a force to be reckoned with. She made a big difference, and she made this city have some balance.”
Though she managed an array of political campaigns, Casey made her mark in city and school board contests in Dallas. Several current council members were Casey’s clients, making up a cluster of representatives known in some circles as the “Casey block.”
Casey had a penchant for guiding office-seekers running against establishment candidates.
“She was a brilliant political tactician and had her hand on the pulse of Dallas politics when very few women were in that position,” said Domingo Garcia, a former state representative and City Council member who hired Casey to run his unsuccessful 2012 congressional campaign against Democrat Marc Veasey. “She was under the radar, but she beat the Dallas establishment over and over again.”
Even politicians that opposed Casey in previous elections acknowledged her success in local politics.
“She was a force. She knew how to get in the middle of it and which levers to push to win,” said council member Paula Blackmon, who first worked with Casey in 2007 on the mayoral campaign of the late former Mayor Pro Tempore Max Wells.
Blackmon said Casey was good at winning with fewer resources than big-box consultants who often work in municipal contests.
“City campaigns that are successful have really strong ground games,” she said. “It was just good old retail politics that sometimes people have forgotten about with the rise of social media and texting. She actually took the candidates to the doors of individuals. That was the key element that made her successful.”
Though Casey did the gritty work of managing campaigns in southern and West Dallas, she also managed races in the city’s northern precincts.
She would point out that poverty and blight could be found in North Dallas, and work races that included areas like Bachman Lake.
“Everybody talks about southern Dallas and the poverty there is awful. It’s a tale of two cities,” Hinojosa said. “But a lot of people forget about Brockbank and the Bachman Lake area. … She helped people on the council and on the school board understand that there was poverty north of I-30.”