Ann Zadeh and Ed Lasater head to runoff election for Fort Worth City Council seat

05/10/2014 7:29 PM

05/10/2014 10:17 PM

Candidates Ann Zadeh and Ed Lasater are headed to a runoff election for the District 9 City Council seat being vacated by Councilman Joel Burns.

Zadeh was leading in the six-way race for the seat with 31.29 percent of the vote. Lasater was in second place with 24.01 percent with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, according to complete and unofficial election returns.

To win the seat outright, a candidate needed over 50 percent of the vote.

Zadeh, 47, a resident of Bluebonnet Hills, is a former mayoral appointee and chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission who says her educational background and work experience in city planning will be beneficial as a councilwoman with Fort Worth’s rapid growth.

“I am really excited tonight, and I’m happy people felt I was a good candidate, and I’m looking forward to a runoff with also a very good candidate,” Zadeh said.

Lasater, 44, a resident of Berkeley Place, who is in a family consulting business also worked as an attorney in municipal law and also for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office under Tim Curry. He says his experience in law and in business have made him aware of issues facing the city.

“I do expect a hard-fought but very positive runoff,” said Lasater. “I’m disappointed in the turnout not just for me, but for everyone. You appreciate the votes, but the turnout is down 25 percent from seven years ago, and that is disappointing.”

Burns, who has represented the area since 2008, announced his resignation in February, saying he plans to obtain a Mid-Career Master in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts. Burns agreed to stay until a replacement is elected.

District 9 is one of the most economically and culturally diverse areas of Fort Worth and includes several key urban centers, including the medical district, TCU and downtown.

It stretches from Interstate 20 in the south to Northeast 28th Street, encompassing several historic neighborhoods. It had nearly 90,000 residents as of November.

The area is 65 percent white, 6 percent black, 2 percent Asian and 26 percent “other.” It is also 58 percent Hispanic, but Hispanic is not considered a race by the U.S. Census.

Runoff election

The runoff election will be June 21, but Bryan Eppstein, political consultant and owner of the Eppstein Group, said voter turnout will probably be even lower for the runoff.

“Turning people out to vote in a runoff will be even more challenging. It is just difficult to get people to vote in a municipal election runoff in the summer,” Eppstein said. He said it will probably be a competitive election.

There were four other people running in Saturday’s election.

Margot Garza, 43 and an adviser for first-generation, financially disadvantaged and/or disabled college students for TCU, had 14.28 percent of the vote.

Greg Hughes, 58 and an engineer at Lockheed Martin, had 17.05 percent.

Bernie Scheffler, 35 and owner of Trinity Bicycles, had 8.65 percent.

Juan Rangel III, 28, did not attend candidate forums, did not file the required campaign finance reports and has not returned calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment since he filed for election. Rangel received 4.73 percent of the vote.

Zadeh has advocated for maintaining the integrity of historic neighborhoods while redeveloping the inner city and said she wants neighborhoods in District 9 to become more involved in determining city policies.

She had $23,959 in unspent contributions and had raised $48,220 and loaned herself $15,000, according to May 2 campaign finance reports. Zadeh’s financial contributors include local attorney Francisco Hernandez.

Lasater has pushed for more city involvement and cooperation with the school districts in Fort Worth, saying that having good school districts is crucial to economic development in the city.

He is financially backed by several key community leaders, including Sid Bass, the Bass Family’s Good Government Fund and Marty Leonard. He had raised $59,645 and loaned himself $10,000 for the campaign, according to campaign finance. He had $47,616 in unspent contributions.

“Almost half the voters voted for a candidate that didn’t make the runoff, so that means there is still a lot of campaigning ahead for the two candidates that did make the runoff, and that is a tip-off to the other candidates that they all ran good, competitive campaigns,” Eppstein said.

Eppstein said endorsements will be important in the runoff, and the two candidates will need to get voters out again during the summer, when there are not any other city issues, like a bond election or tax renewal, on the ballot.

“There is still a lot of campaigning ahead,” Eppstein said. “It is like they are both starting at the beginning,”

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