Just over 200,000 Tarrant County residents — 17% of registered voters — cast ballots during last week’s primaries. The partisan elections that determine which candidates will represent their party in November saw many familiar names emerge victorious. In the county judge race, Democrat Deborah Peoples bested her one opponent by taking in 83% of 70,904 votes cast while former Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price lost to Trump-endorsed Tim O’Hare.
A Beto O’Rourke win in the midterms could end Gov. Greg Abbott’s tenure as the biggest bully of transgender children in the nation and pave the way for a Lone Star State that actually cares about providing access to the ballot and decent public education for Texas’ five million students. While every Tarrant County race has serious implications for civic life in our part of North Texas, three races in particular caught our attention.
Pathological Liar Tim O’Hare Snags Republican Nom for County Judge
It reads like a Dragons football game — Southlake 1, Fort Worth 0 — with the obvious distinction that the county judge race is definitely not a pastime. Tim O’Hare’s powerful and well-funded white supremacist movement that recently beat former Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price now represents a threat to most Tarrant County residents’ way of life, and yet 71,557 Republicans are apparently OK with installing a homophobic bigot as head of Tarrant County.
It’s a sad fact that the cult of a twice-impeached racist credibly accused of rape by nearly 30 women still holds the entire Republican party, especially Tarrant County’s, by the cisgender balls.
“I am very disappointed that a disingenuous attack campaign was successful in Tarrant County,” tweeted current County Judge Glen Whitley, who is not seeking reelection, referring to O’Hare’s success in painting Price as a lefty.
Republicans like Price and Whitley can whine all they want about O’Hare’s strong showing, besting Betsy by 28,529 votes, but they can’t pretend their party hasn’t pandered to xenophobic, racist bigots for decades. Now, those factions are running the Republican party, and the extremists have the backing of wealthy Southlakers, evangelical pseudo-Christians, and Tarrant County’s criminal justice system. Both Sheriff Bill Waybourn and District Attorney Sharen Wilson used their elected positions to support O’Hare’s overtly racist, bigoted movement.
O’Hare’s campaign raised more than $1 million to fund messages that portrayed Black protesters as inherently violent and transgender children as “anti-family” values. Every press release O’Hare put out was full of lies about Price that sought to portray the lifelong Republican as a Marxist. Guess what? It worked.
One anti-Price website with ties to Fort Worth’s Mercy Culture Church misrepresented the former mayor as a danger to family values because she dared to take photos with folks in the LGBTQ+ community and also did not parrot transphobic rhetoric from our state leaders and the twice-impeached golfer. The homophobic assholes who put together the anti-Price website are also cowards. Only Erik Richerson, the treasurer behind the PAC that funds the website, is listed on government disclosure forms. The supporters of the PAC overplayed their hands by openly violating Texas Ethics Commission rules that mandate accurate releases of information. Ethics commission staffers are in possession of formal complaints against the PAC, Tarrant County Conservatives, from a civic-minded local who asked to remain anonymous, and the website operators will be forced to disclose their funding sources in the near future in accordance with state law. Can’t hide behind those white hoods any longer.
O’Hare’s team will do their best now to position him as a moderate. They will try to distract the public from the monstrous, expensive acts he committed while mayor of Farmers Branch — he made English the official language and forced landlords to check the immigration status of tenants before signing a lease, two acts that cost Farmers Branch $5 million to defend and that the courts ultimately ruled as unconstitutional. O’Hare, the man who single-handedly turned Southlake into a political dumpster fire of right-wing paranoia over imaginary threats, has brought disgrace and humiliation wherever he has turned his political attention. The public needs to hold him accountable for the suffering he has caused, and Tarrant County voters need to boot his supporters — meaning every elected official who endorsed him — from office.
In November, a vote for Deborah Peoples for county judge will be a vote for truth, justice, and democracy.
Clean Slate for Precinct 4?
Graft and insider dealings defined much of J.D. Johnson’s 40-year tenure as Precinct 4 commissioner, and many of his alleged misdeeds are only now coming to the public’s attention through reporting by our news magazine. If you want a new road or lucrative county contract in Precinct 4, simply buddy up with Johnson or write a big ol’ check to his campaign, like Steele and Freeman Inc. president Michael Freeman did in 2014 and 2015.
Based on our recent open records requests, Tarrant County paid Freeman’s construction company $16,312,855 to cover the construction costs of Tarrant County Northwest Sub-Courthouse in Precinct 4. Steele and Freeman completed the 58,000-square-foot county headquarters in 2012, and Freeman donated $10,000 to Johnson in 2014 and $7,500 the following year, according to campaign finance disclosures. Though not illegal, these types of quid quo pro agreements undermine local government credibility and create miniature kleptocracies that every good ol’ boy in Tarrant County is apparently OK with.
Republican Manny Ramirez recently beat Constable Jody Johnson — J.D.’s son — in a contentious primary race that pitted the president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Union against the golden child of Fort Worth’s good ol’ boy club. Papa Johnson gifted his son a cool $250,000 last summer, but even that largesse wasn’t enough to ensure that the Johnson dynasty would persist. Apparently, Precinct 4 voters are done with that family.
In the days leading to last week’s primary, we published descriptions and copies of documents that appear to show Precinct 4 employees working during government business hours to help Jody’s campaign (“Campaigning on the Clock?” Feb 25). The documented misuses of government resources appear to have begun in 2016 when Jody first took elected office as constable. Texas’ penal code forbids public officials from using their office for self-serving purposes like campaigning.
Given Precinct 4’s conservative leanings, it is all but certain that Ramirez will be elected its commissioner come November. We predict that the days of insider dealings in west and northwest Tarrant County are finally over. The taxpayers who voted for Ramirez and who will likely vote for him over Dem Cedric Kanyinda in November expect as much.
Persecutor or Prosecutor?
Based on our open records requests, attorneys and staffers at the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office are fleeing DA Wilson. Nearly one-third of her nearly 300-person workforce resigned or retired last year. If that exodus continues this year, it will likely be due to terror about the prospect of a Matt Krause or Phil Sorrells administration next year. The Republican candidate for district attorney will be decided in the Sun, May 24, runoff election.
Sorrells was blessed by Father Trump, and a former judge accepting an endorsement from a racist, bigot, and credible rapist who limply tried to overthrow the U.S. government tells you all you need to know about what Sorrells will bring to 401 W. Belknap St. if elected. Nothing good.
The DA’s office is responsible for prosecuting state laws at the county level, but Sorrells’ campaign website is full of right-wing rhetoric that has absolutely nothing to do with county government work. “Sorrells will aggressively prosecute criminal conduct by illegal aliens and will make every effort to detain them until they are deported,” part of his website reads.
The notion that illegal immigrants are somehow disproportionately responsible for violent crime is racist and based on Trump’s bullshit attempts to divide the country along racial lines.
“Undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens, with immigrants legally in the United States even less likely to do so,” the Washington Post reported four years ago during the worst of Trump’s efforts to portray Mexicans as dangerous.
Sorrells is running against an arguably even more unhinged opponent. Former State Rep. Matt Krause, when he wasn’t drafting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, was hunting for “woke” books that dealt with racism, sexuality, and history. His efforts mimicked state and national right-wing efforts to portray certain stories as dangerous. Crackpots like Krause buy into Fox Nation talking points that equate anti-racism with anti-white. The former state rep initially announced he was running for State Attorney General before withdrawing from that race to run for DA. All that matters to Krackpot Krause is power.
Under DA Wilson, Tarrant’s prosecutors have shown a willingness to use their office to attack political opponents. Under Krause’s leadership, we can only imagine how much evil will be perpetrated under the guise of “voter integrity” or protecting “family values.”
Democrat candidate Tiffany Burks has something that Krause and Sorrells lack — 27 years of experience as a prosecutor — and a willingness and ability to restore faith in the local DA’s office.
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. Columns will be gently edited for factuality and clarity.