After a bruising election campaign, Amarillo City Councilman Cole Stanley cruised to victory on Saturday night to win the election as the next mayor.

Stanley, a commercial builder and first-term councilman who emerged as a frequent critic of Mayor Ginger Nelson, won the election for Amarillo mayor with 75 percent of the vote on Saturday night. Stanley defeated his colleague and the establishment-backed successor to Nelson, Councilwoman Freda Powell, who received 18 percent of the vote.

Rounding out the field of candidates, former Elkhart City Councilman Don Collins received 3 percent, while transgender activist Sam Burnett and truck driver Tonya Winston each received 2 percent, and life/consciousness coach Jeff McGunegle received 1 percent.

The unofficial numbers for Stanley showed the Councilman winning both Potter and Randall counties on Tuesday night after voters rallied around his platform of change at City Hall. Stanley was endorsed by the Republican Party of Texas, the Save Amarillo PAC, the Amarillo Police Officers Association, the Amarillo Professional Firefighters Association, Young Conservatives of Texas, and other local groups.

Perhaps Stanley’s biggest support came from businessman Alex Fairly, who came to notoriety last year for filing a lawsuit that stopped Nelson’s push to rebuild the Amarillo Civic Center Complex using tax anticipation notes, despite voter rejection of the project. Fairly donated more than $40,000 to Stanley’s campaign, which Nelson and her allies made an issue of during the race.

During the final city council meeting before Election Day, Nelson proposed launching an investigation into Stanley’s donation from Fairly. Nelson stated that she had been approached by citizens who believed that because Stanley had stated the City of Amarillo should drop its appeal of the civic center lawsuit and pay Fairly his court-award legal fees, that meant Fairly might have been supporting Stanley in an effort to recoup his court costs. Nelson’s proposal for the city council to take action was unsuccessful, as she was unable to get the votes needed from the council to authorize the investigation.

During the meeting, Nelson refused to let Stanley’s attorney, Len Walker, participate in the proceedings and rejected a request from former Amarillo Mayor Trent Sisemore to speak on the issue of campaign donations. Nelson was nearly universally criticized for the move to attempt an investigation days before Election Day, even by more establishment-aligned city council candidates.

With Stanley’s victory, he is set to take office later this month. His current seat on the city council will remain vacant through June 24, when a runoff will be held to decide his successor. Firefighter Josh Craft and realtor Dean Crump are vying for that seat.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.