Espino gets an opponent for council seat - former councilman Lane

Posted Monday, Feb. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Fort Worth

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FORT WORTH -- The city's north side City Council District 2 is officially at least a two-candidate race, featuring incumbent Sal Espino and former Councilman Jim Lane, who together have represented the district since 1993.

Espino, who said he waited nearly two weeks after the start of filing for the May 11 election to gauge the support of his young family, filed papers for his candidacy Monday. Espino acknowledged that he was surprised by Lane's Friday filing.

"He had not expressed any interest in the seat to me, or dissatisfaction with my service on the council," said Espino, who lost to Lane in 2003 and then won the seat in 2005 with Lane's backing. "I look forward to a good campaign on the issues that matter to the north side," including building badly needed streets and roads in the fast-growing district, commuter rail, jobs, strong parks, and maintaining the city's fiscal strength.

Lane said he jumped in "after the first week, when no one filed" and Espino was telling supporters he was conferring with his wife and four children.

"I've been thinking about this for quite a while," Lane, who lost a bid for mayor against Betsy Price in 2011, said. "The race isn't about Sal as far as I'm concerned. It's about what Jim Lane wants to do for District 2 and the city of Fort Worth."

He ran through his own litany of favorite issues: rebuilding bad streets in old neighborhoods, bringing badly needed infrastructure into new ones, working with schools on joint projects.

On Price, he said, "I think she's doing a great job, and I'd like to be there to help her out."

The race has already drawn in Hispanic politics in the heavily Latino district, considered by Hispanic leaders to be the city's only real opportunity for an Hispanic to win. Former Councilman Louis Zapata, who joined with Lane to help propel Espino to his first victory, signed on as treasurer for Lane's campaign.

"God, I hate this one, I hate this one because they're both great friends," said Zapata, who said he believed Espino might not run. "But once I make a commitment, I stick with it."

Zapata said he thinks "Sal's done a good job" as councilman.

Lane, 68, said he's not worried about racial politics. "Potholes don't come in colors," he said.

The city's controversial changes to its employee pension also figure to play a role in the race.

Espino joined council members last fall in voting for major changes to the pension to try and rein in a big, growing unfunded liability.

Police officers voted overwhelmingly to raise their contributions in exchange for retaining the benefits formula, but the council rejected that.

Lane has strong ties to the city's public safety employees. During his mayoral campaign, he raised nearly $190,000 from the Fort Worth Firefighters Committee for Responsible Government, Fort Worth Police Officers Association Committee for Public Safety, and a Fort Worth firefighters retiree organization.

Firefighters and police are currently in contract talks with the city.

Jim Tate, president of the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association, said the group will examine the candidates and make endorsements after the March 1 filing deadline. Steve Hall, president of the Police Officers Association, said the association was surprised Lane decided to run.

His association will likely have endorsements March 2, he said.

"Right now, we're taking a back seat and seeing how thing pans out," Hall said. "Jim's a public servant and has been for a long time. He does make a great candidate."

Espino said he stood by his vote on the pension changes, which passed with eight votes in favor and one abstention.

"The city of Fort Worth taxpayers were facing an over-$800 million liability," Espino said. "It was not an easy choice, but it was a very courageous choice."

The nonpartisan race pits two well-known Democrats against each other.

Espino's loss to Lane in 2003 divided the North Side. The 45-year-old Espino, an attorney, has been re-elected three times, most recently in 2011.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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