A Few Words With Ron Kirk
The former Dallas mayor and U.S. Senate candidate on life after politics and, well, politics.
How are you doing these days, Mr. Mayor?
For a big old boy, I don’t sweat much, fortunately, in this heat. Wait, let me turn down my music.
What are you listening to?
Classical. But I can put on Tupac if you want.
You’ve been back to being a working stiff for, what, nine months now? Was it hard to adjust?
It’s almost embarrassing to say so, but it’s refreshingly normal and wonderful. The reality of life after politics is much more pleasant than any of us can imagine ahead of time. We tend to think of only the most negative consequences: “Oh, my God, what happens if I lose?” It is at once the most crushingly personal and public defeat. On the other hand, if you have the right balance, life goes on. I have wonderful people to come home to at night, and I didn’t need to spend a minute wondering what career path to take or how to provide for my family.
You’ve returned to your longtime law firm, Gardere Wynne Sewell.
It’s no secret that the last ten years of my life have been dominated by my work in the public sector. I haven’t spent a lot of time being a lawyer. But contrary to what some of you people in the media thought, I’ve always been involved in the management and marketing of the firm. That’s what I’m doing now: I’m generating business. It’s fun.
Are you getting out much in Dallas, now that you have a little more free time?
The whole time I was mayor, my mantra was “Mayor is what I do; it’s not who I am.” What I am is the dad of a teenager and a soon-to-be teenager. The majority of my free time and [my wife] Matrice’s is wrapped up in the girls’ activities and at their school. We’ll never have another opportunity to watch our daughters grow to be young women. Beyond that, I’m going to the movies. I’m back to playing golf—I’m taking lessons. I’ve picked up tennis. And I’m exercising more.
It’s been quite a political year in Texas. Have you been following what’s going on at the Legislature and wishing you were there, in the thick of things?
I don’t wish I was in Austin, though I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I was trying to go north, not south.
Let me ask you about race. Did the media make too much of the fact that you were a black candidate for the Senate?
Yes and no. It was unavoidable, given the potentially historic nature of the outcome. But I said at the beginning that if I won, it wasn’t going to be because of my race, and if I lost, I wasn’t going to blame it on my race. And I don’t. I lost not because of the B after my name but because of the D. It was not the year to be a Democrat running for national office.
So can your party come back?
Absolutely. We can and we will. There’s a strong historical pattern that shows that no matter which party is on the brink of domination, it has a fairly consistent ability to gum it up and breathe the breath of life into the other. It’s the kind of society we are: One year we like chocolate and one we like vanilla.
What about you? Have you foreclosed on the possibility of a comeback?
Once you’ve been bit by the bug, it’s like having any other virus. It’s always there.