The race for Fort Worth’s District 9 City Council seat is a heating up — with five candidates committed and another still considering the plunge into politics.
Margo Garza, 43, was the latest to join the fray, declaring her candidacy Friday morning at the Intermodal Transportation Center. The deadline to file for the May 10 election is Monday.
Joel Burns, who has represented the area since 2008, announced his resignation at the Feb. 11 council meeting, saying he plans to obtain a Mid-Career Master in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts.
The sudden announcement left residents interested in running scrambling to get a campaign together and might make it more difficult to gain traction in the election, said TCU political science professor Jim Riddlesperger .
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“This council election is under the radar, if you will, and that affects it in meaningful ways. A lot of people just aren’t paying attention,” Riddlesperger said, adding that it is also getting overshadowed by the midterm election.
“I think [the candidates] are going to have a very hard time getting their name out there. Everybody was surprised that [Burns] announced he was retiring, and so I think it is going to be hard to get a lot of enthusiasm going for this,” Riddlesperger added.
Garza kicked off her campaign at the Intermodal Transportation Center because one of her primary issues will be transportation. If elected, she would be the first Hispanic woman on the council.
“What I feel makes me unique from the other candidates is that the district is 58 percent Latino. That district is sorely under-represented,” Garza said. “Currently, we have a City Council member who represents the north side and a portion of the Latino community from that area, but it is clear to me that the south side of the city needs an additional City Council member, a Latino.”
Garza, who lives in the Ryan Place neighborhood, started working with local voter registration initiatives with her father, community organizer Willie Garza, when she was 16.
She has her bachelor’s degree in social science from Texas Wesleyan University and a master’s in liberal arts from TCU. She works for the TRiO Programs at TCU as the director of student support services, assisting first-generation students, those who are financially disadvantaged and students with disabilities.
Garza said transportation and planning are two key issues, and she intents to review tax abatement and negotiations and said her experience in education will help develop economic development opportunities for college graduates.
Four other candidates have already announced their intention to run, with the possibility of more candidates emerging during the weekend.
Greg Hughes, 57, an engineer at Lockheed Martin, served on the Fort Worth Transportation Authority board for four years starting in 1999 and was involved in the collaboration with Dallas Area Rapid Transit to bring the Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth.
He has lived in the University West neighborhood for more than 20 years and said the city’s fiscal position is a primary issue. He filed to run Feb. 26.
Edward Lasater, 44, a graduate of Arlington Heights High School, Tulane University and Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, filed Feb. 18.
Lasater, who lives in Berkeley Place, worked for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office under Tim Curry for eight years. He wants to encourage development while maintaining the character of neighborhoods. He also said education and transportation are important issues.
Bernie Scheffler, 35, ran for the District 9 seat against Wendy Davis and Burns in 2007, and filed to run in this election Feb. 21. Scheffler would address the city’s rapid growth and maintain diversity.
He owns a bicycle shop, Trinity Bicycles, in downtown Fort Worth and has lived in the city for 14 years. He also worked as a communications director for Davis during her first state Senate campaign and as a legislative aide handling community issues during her first legislative session.
Ann Zadeh, 47, a former mayoral appointee and chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission, has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington and said her experience in city planning will be beneficial as Fort Worth grows.
Zadeh also filed to run Feb. 18 and has lived in the Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood for more than 20 years.
Brian Renteria, 35, a data analyst for the Fort Worth school district, is still considering running.
Originally from Fort Worth and now living in Oakhurst, Renteria graduated from Texas Wesleyan and earned a master’s in public administration from UT Arlington.
District 9 includes several key urban centers, including the medical district, TCU and downtown, and stretches from Interstate 20 in the south to Northeast 28th street.
The area also includes nearly 90,000 residents as of November.
Though Garza said being Latina will appeal to the Hispanic majority in the district, Riddlesperger said it will be a hard to get that population to vote.
“The challenges are both getting her name known among Hispanic voters and also motivating Hispanic voters to vote, because traditionally they don’t vote in very high numbers,” he said.
Having so many candidates running will help the election, Riddlesperger said.
“At least the candidates’ friends will know about it, but how hotly contested it is going to be, whether one or two will emerge as front-runners or if we will be guessing all the way through the election is something I don’t think any of us can know,” he said.
April 10 is the last day to register for the local May election, with early voting starting April 28 and ending May 6.
With at least five candidates running, Riddlesperger said one candidate getting the majority to win is going to be “very, very difficult.”
In the case of a runoff, the election would be June 21, with early voting starting June 9. Burns has said he will stay on the council until a replacement is elected.
The council member election will be on the same ballot as the $292 million bond program and the renewal of the Crime Control and Prevention District sales tax.
More information is at fortworthtexas.gov/elections.
This report contains information from Star-Telegram archives.