In the June 5 runoff, Fort Worth citizens will decide whether the city establishment will have another term in power or if Democrats seeking to turn Texas blue will get a council majority.
Of the five seats on the runoff ballot, three of them could decide the direction of Fort Worth’s city government in the post-Mayor Betsy Price era. One race in particular could lead council to be more citizen-orientated.
In the race for mayor, citizens face the choice of former Price chief of staff Mattie Parker and former Tarrant County Democrat Party Chair Deborah Peoples. The candidates are backed by different forces—one by Democrats, the other by the top of the city establishment and Republicans—and have faced questions regarding their past. They differ on key issues such as election integrity and defunding police.
Peoples is backed by former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, defund police activists, and leftist organizations. Turning Texas into a Democrat state is a key objective of her campaign. “Turning Fort Worth blue is the key to turning Texas blue,” read her campaign emails.
Parker, endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott and outgoing Mayor Betsy Price, is backed by attorney Dee Kelly Jr.’s faction of the Fort Worth establishment, which comprises members from the top of the city’s pyramid of power. Also among Parker’s endorsements are Tarrant County GOP Chair Rick Barnes and State Rep. Craig Goldman (R–Fort Worth).
Despite Peoples’ campaign of wanting to “unite us into one Fort Worth,” screenshots surfaced of divisive social media posts allegedly from her; among them was a call to boycott white-owned restaurants in the city. Peoples did not respond to questions regarding these posts.
Parker’s husband is a lobbyist for Longbow Partners, which in 2014 signed a one-year contract to work as the city government’s taxpayer-funded lobbyists. Parker said the city “terminated that arrangement” in April 2015 when she was hired to be Price’s chief of staff. Parker also stated Longbow would not be hired should she win the mayoral race. Her husband also sits on the board of one of the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, a public financing tool using increased property tax revenue for downtown development projects. Parker said she will not renominate her husband to the board if she is elected mayor.
Peoples sided with big business against attempts by the Texas Legislature to pass election integrity reforms during the regular session this year. Parker initially appeared to agree with her, then a day later came out in support of legislative efforts to secure our state’s elections.
When asked about how to deal with the rising crime in Fort Worth, Peoples said, “We have to talk about [the] whole issue [that] came up about reprioritizing funding to the police or defund the police.” She went on to say the “defund” movement is about “looking at where we could move dollars—good, common-sense dollars—from the police and militarizing the police to good community policing programs.” Parker, however, has solidly opposed defunding the police, stating it “will not happen under my watch.” She supports peaceful protests, not riots, and said she will maintain law and order.
Peoples has not responded to press inquiries about the 66 citations the city of Fort Worth issued against citizens and businesses for not following government COVID-19 restrictions. Parker, however, did. “The biggest problem with the ordinance was it penalized business owners for individual customers not wearing masks or social distancing,” she told Texas Scorecard.
Another issue likely to be affected by this election is the future of Panther Island, the $1.1 billion-plus taxpayer-funded real estate redevelopment project disguised as flood control that is near the Trinity River. Parker wants local government to partner with businesses to finish it, while Peoples said fighting flooding should be the priority.
No flood study has ever been conducted for the Panther Island project.
City Council District 6
This is another race that will decide which course the city will take in the future, as the ticket is an establishment candidate versus a Democrat-backed candidate.
Dr. Jared Williams, backed by leftist organization Run for Something—whose goal is to build a bench of candidates to run for higher office—is challenging incumbent Councilmember Jungus Jordan.
Williams has been endorsed by State Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D–Dallas) and former Democrat congressional candidate Kim Olson, and he held a get-out-the-vote event with Joe Jaworski, the Democrat candidate for Texas attorney general.
Jordan is endorsed by Mayor Price, the Fort Worth Firefighters Committee for Responsible Government, and the Fort Worth Police Officers Committee for Public Safety. If Jordan loses, this would give the left-leaning faction of city council a 5-4 majority even if Parker wins the mayoral race.
City Council District 7
This is the race to replace retiring Councilmember Dennis Shingleton.
Leonard Firestone is squaring off against conservative Zeb Pent.
Firestone has been endorsed by Price and Shingleton and received financial backing from the Kelly faction of the city establishment, despite having a low voting participation record in city elections.
Pent, on the other hand, boasts a long list of citizen endorsements.
Firestone was the campaign treasurer for Paxton Motheral, who was originally going to run, but the two mysteriously swapped places at the last minute. That swap is at the center of an allegation that Firestone engaged in illegal campaign finance activities, about which he has never responded to questions from Texas Scorecard.
Former candidate Lee Henderson—who was deputy data director for Obama for America in 2012—has endorsed Firestone in the runoff, and Democrat organizers have recommended him. While Henderson acknowledged Firestone isn’t a Democrat, he says he prefers Firestone to his “too far-right opponent.”
Firestone hasn’t answered questions about the COVID citations the city issued last year, but Pent has taken a strong stand against the citations against businesses and the citations against citizens helping to feed the homeless.
A Firestone win might indicate that seat will stay in establishment hands, but a Pent win could lead the council to be more citizen-oriented.
Voters will decide on June 5.