Why both sides are so obsessed with the non-partisan Texas mayoral race
What is happening in Tarrant County is closely watched, both inside and outside the state. Once a Republican stronghold, Tarrant has seen his GOP margins decline in recent years – President Joe Biden’s narrow victory there in November marked the first time in more than half a century that a Democratic presidential candidate wore the count. If the county continues to move to the left, it could affect the balance of power in statewide elections.
“We’ve never had a race this partisan,” said Kenneth Barr, the former Democratic mayor of Fort Worth who ruled the city from 1996 to 2003. “In Texas you are not allowed, for governments municipal, to hold partisan primaries. And this particular election went as far in the partisan leadership as any we’ve ever had. “
The second round features Republican Mattie Parker, former chief of staff for Price, and Democrat Deborah Peoples, a retired AT&T executive, both of whom insist they run non-partisan campaigns.
To some extent, that’s true: Parker has refused any GOP endorsement in his general election campaign, and Peoples has moved away from joint events with national Democratic groups backing his campaign. At the heart of the competition are questions related to how Fort Worth will change as the city continues to grow – it is currently the 12th largest city in the country. The influx of people has increased the need for more urban infrastructure and placed more emphasis on public safety concerns for voters in light of an increase in violent crime in 2020.
Yet the county Republican Party continues to make calls and knock on doors on Parker’s behalf. And Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott approved it on Wednesday, specifically highlighting his support for law enforcement – and contrasting it with Peoples’ record.
For her part, Peoples, a former Democratic president of Tarrant County, has been supported by a number of national Democratic groups and prominent national and national Democrats, including former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, former Mayor of San Antonio Julián Castro and the Democratic National Committee. chair Jaime Harrison.
The PAC Collective – which helps elect black candidates for election – poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race in an effort to get black voters in the city to support Peoples, who would be the first black mayor in the city. city.
Republicans fear that Fort Worth’s rapid growth will not only change the city’s traditional character and politics, but move it in the same direction as the state’s four largest cities – Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin . These cities typically lead Democratic candidates for election statewide.
“There is great concern here that if you end up with a Democratic mayor, it will change what people know to be Fort Worth,” said Rick Barnes, Republican Party chairman for Tarrant County.
The ongoing national debate on race and policing has served to heighten partisan issues. Republicans have sought to make the contest in part a referendum on Democratic leadership in other cities across the country. In the context of ongoing conversations about police funding in Austin and the rest of the country, the topic has become the biggest topic of discussion in recent days.
With a Democratic mayor, Republicans argue, Fort Worth would be more susceptible to scenes of disorder and violence that occurred in some major American cities last summer.
“We see what Democrats have done more in Austin than in Dallas, but these two cities [have] Democratic mayors. And then when you add Houston and San Antonio, the people of Fort Worth just don’t want to let their city go in that direction, ”Barnes said.
In an interview with the Star-Telegram, Abbott described Peoples’ reform-oriented stance on the police as “supporting a police fundraising position.” He and other Republicans in the state sought to portray her as an opponent of law enforcement.
While the Peoples campaign platform calls for a reallocation of law enforcement funds to community policing initiatives, it has avoided the term “fund the police.”
But his opposition to a referendum on the taxpayer-funded police budget in 2020 has given Republican critics ammunition. While a majority of Fort Worth voters have embraced the Crime Control and Prevention District, a half-penny tax that helps pay for police equipment as well as officers’ attendance at special events and in schools, Peoples objected, saying citizens should have more feedback on how the money is used.
“You can’t deny the fact that she was trying to conquer this, that she was on the wrong side of this issue,” said Cary Moon, member of Fort Worth City Council. “I think that’s probably the biggest problem people see – and they don’t want to fund the police.”
Peoples, which has emphasized racial inclusion as part of its platform, described itself as a “maker of gradual change.”
“What [Fort Worth] that leadership embraces now does not include the entire population of the city. We are a majority minority city, ”Peoples said in an interview. “Our biggest problem is making sure that all of us across the city benefit from this explosive growth that we are seeing. “
Peoples criticized Parker for accepting the governor’s approval, citing the governor’s support for the voting bill introduced by Republicans to the state legislature that would limit voting access for millions of black voters , Latino and low income.
“This approval is a clear signal that Mattie Parker will adopt Abbott’s division as mayor,” she tweeted.
Parker concedes that the pull of national politics served to intensify the race.
“It’s part of what’s happening across the country that seems to translate here, whether it’s a problem here or not,” said Parker, who has been endorsed by the city’s police and fire unions. . “Because Fort Worth has grown so fast and we’re now the 12th largest city, sometimes we haven’t always talked about the tough things a growing city needs to talk about. ”
Fort Worth’s voting system – it has elected both Democratic and Republican mayors in recent decades – makes Saturday’s outcome difficult to predict. Peoples was the top voter in the May 1 general election, but Parker is standing up to collect the votes of some of the more conservative candidates who were eliminated.
“Anyone who runs for the mayor’s office who tries to do it based on ‘I’m doing this for Republican or Democratic control’ is going to lose,” said Brian Mayes, a Texas-based media strategist who cut the ads for the Parker. countryside. ” The electors [in Fort Worth] I’ve always had an independent streak.