On Saturday, the war between two factions of the Fort Worth establishment was decided, with Mattie Parker set to face Pro-Defund Police Democrat Deborah Peoples in the June 5 runoff. Four city council races will also be going to runoff, one of them with grassroots conservative Zeb Pent squaring off against establishment-backed Leonard Firestone.

The backdrop of the mayoral race was Panther Island, the unfinished $1.2 billion real estate redevelopment boondoggle near the Trinity River, with conflict breaking out between two factions of the Fort Worth establishment.

Attorney Dee Kelly Jr.’s faction backed Mattie Parker, former chief of staff for outgoing Mayor Betsy Price. Kelly Jr. is listed as treasurer of a number of political action committees that received donations from the powerful Bass brothers, who are reported to be at the very peak of the establishment pyramid.

The faction of Congresswoman Kay Granger (R–TX), whose son has run Panther Island for years, backed Councilmember Brian Byrd. The Grangers have operated Panther Island with a lack of transparency as the project’s costs exploded with repeated delays. During her time as mayor, Granger was said to be in the “second tier” of the establishment pyramid, which reportedly would get anything they wanted unless the top tier opposed it.

As of 11:43 pm Saturday, according to data from Tarrant County Elections, Parker won 33 percent of the vote to Byrd’s nearly 15 percent. Tarrant County Democrat Chair Deborah Peoples won nearly 34 percent, while citizen-candidate Steve Penate earned nearly 10 percent despite never running for office before.

Parker will face Peoples in the runoff. Parker was asked to contrast herself with her opponent. “I think it’s all about policy and vision for the city of Fort Worth. I want to take us forward and unite the city in a way that we haven’t seen before,” she told Texas Scorecard. “I’ve gotten to know Deborah on the campaign trail. She’s a great person, but we have a very different approach to where we want to take the city of Fort Worth, and what we’re concerned about.”

I want to have a positive message, and I think you’ve seen a difference in the two of us over the last few weeks. I think you’ll see that play out also during the run off.

With Parker advancing into the runoff, Kelly, Jr’s faction has soundly whipped Granger’s, making their Panther Island proposal of lobbying for more federal taxpayer dollars potentially dead. Parker’s proposal of local government aligning with business remains an option, should she stick with it.

There will also be city council runoff races.

Incumbent Jungus Jordan will face Democrat Dr. Jared Williams in District 6, while District 8 Councilmember Kelly Allen Gray will face Chris Nettles.

With open seats, in District 9 Democrat Elizabeth Beck will square off against Fernando Peralta and Jared Sloane. In District 7, grassroots conservative Zeb Pent will go against Leonard Firestone, whose 30-day campaign finance reports shows backing from Kelly, Jr.’s establishment faction.

Firestone also is currently under allegations of “Illegal Campaign Finance Activities,” receiving anonymous campaign contributions from Paxton Motheral, Firestone’s campaign treasurer and was a District 7 candidate until he dropped out at the last minute and swapped places with his campaign treasurer: Firestone.

“I think voters have a clear choice of where we’ve been for the last 10 years, and where we want to go. A clear choice of an insider versus an outsider, a clear choice of political action committees versus individuals,” Pent told Texas Scorecard. “Our campaign is funded 100 percent by individuals, we have a 100 percent grassroots campaign, and what happened today was proof of a lot of hard work, and a lot of passion for the preservation of our city, for the protection of our city.”

“When it when it comes to infrastructure, the elected officials that we’ve had in the city of Fort Worth for the better part of two decades now, have paid zero attention to North Fort Worth,” he continued. “They have allowed development to take place before infrastructure, and we’ve created traffic nightmares all over the northern part of our district.”

Pent wouldn’t comment on the allegations against Firestone.

Incumbents Carlos Flores in District 2 and Gyna Bivens in District 5 won re-election. Michael Crain, Councilman Byrd’s District Director, won the race to replace his now former boss in District 3.

Winning re-election with 52 percent as of 11:43 pm was incumbent District 4 Councilman Cary Moon. “Thank you for supporting me in my re-election to serve on Fort Worth City Council,” he stated that evening. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve, and I look forward to continue to protect the taxpayer, to make sure that your voice is heard at City Hall, and will do what’s best for Fort Worth on all accounts.”

The runoff election is scheduled for June 5.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.