This much is clear: The Republican candidates for Tarrant County district clerk aren’t fans of each other.
The incumbent of 23 years, Tom Wilder, said his opponent, Frank Palomino Jr., is unqualified.
“He’s a phony and an agent provocateur,” Wilder said. “He was sent to try and throw rocks at me. He’s walking around trying to stir things up.”
Palomino, other the other hand, said Wilder has become stale after a lengthy tenure, takes credit for things that were implemented by others and has been slow to upgrade the computer system.
“The computer issues are still a problem,” Palomino said. “But I won’t know the specific problems until I see the program and how it works.”
The district clerk’s office has 140 full-time and 25 part-time employees. It handles about 60,000 new court filings a year.
Wilder said Tarrant County is building a new case management system that will include new Web access and an improved search capability. In addition, the county is adding a new disaster recovery and business continuity system that will include court records.
“In the coming year, I would hope if that backup is actually vetted, we would go paperless in the courts except for pro se cases” in which someone is representing themselves, Wilder said. “We have a co-location with another county with redundant backups in two places in case something sinister happens.”
After getting into a heated exchange of words at the Star-Telegram’s Jan. 22 Editorial Board meeting, the level of distrust between the candidates remains high.
Palomino questioned whether Wilder was married at that meeting, setting off a testy exchange between the two candidates.
“You were divorced in March 1972. You’re not married,” Palomino said.
Wilder responded by saying, “You’re a lying dog. You bring my wife into this? I’ve been married since college.”
The next day, Wilder provided the Star-Telegram with a copy of his marriage license. He and his wife, Charlene, were first married on Oct. 18, 1962. They were divorced on March 1, 1972, in Dallas County but remarried in Tarrant County on Dec. 28, 1972. An online search also confirmed the marriage records.
After Wilder provided the records, Palomino said he wouldn’t bring it up anymore.
Palomino, 73, has said he wants to “purify” management in the district clerk’s office. He said Wilder’s decision to close the passport office in the district clerk’s office is a sign of his management style.
“He was mismanaging the passport office and the people told him ‘You gotta follow the rules and regulations,’ and Tom wanted to do his own thing,” Palomino said.
In the latest campaign filings, Palomino reported a campaign balance of zero, while Wilder reported a balance of $121,646.
When he announced the closure of the six passport offices in 2015, Wilder said there was “an element of retaliation” from the State Department office in Dallas.
“Two bureaucrats got crossways with me,” Wilder said.
The State Department wouldn’t divulge the rules, and Wilder said federal officials prevented him from talking about it.
In 2016, Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia started processing passport applications.
Wilder has accused Palomino of being a stalking horse for the Democratic Party and said that he is not remotely qualified for the office. Palomino retired from A job at Lockheed in 2000.
Palomino has twice run against Wilder as a Democrat, in 2002 and 2010. In this election, Wilder has accused him of working with Democratic district clerk candidate John Derewitz to defeat him.
Palomino said that is false and that he is fed up with the Democratic Party and will never support another Democrat. If Wilder defeats him in the primary, Palomino said he will support him in the fall.
“That’s a big lie,” Palomino said. “He wants everybody to think I’ll support the Democrat, but that’s not true.”