A few votes could make a difference in Fort Worth District 9 race

05/17/2014 4:32 PM

05/17/2014 4:33 PM

Ann Zadeh and Ed Lasater are full speed ahead in the June 21 runoff to replace outgoing Councilman Joel Burns for the District 9 City Council seat.

Zadeh won 1,006 votes, or 31.29 percent, compared to Lasater’s 772 votes, or 24.01 percent, in the six-candidate field in the May 10 election.

“Usually in an election like this, the person who finished first always has the leg up in the second election as well,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “One would have to say that Ann has the advantage going into the runoff.”

“Although, again, with as few votes as there were and with as few as there are likely to be in the runoff, just a few votes can make a difference in the outcome,” he said.

Zadeh, 47, a former mayoral appointee and chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission, said that her experience working with the council and city boards gives her a “solid foundation of knowledge that council people need to be well-versed in.”

“I’ve just gone back to what I was doing before and that is meeting with anybody and everybody who wants to meet and to continue to connect with people,” Zadeh said.

Lasater, 44, a local attorney and businessman, said Zadeh’s lead in the May 10 election doesn’t worry him in the runoff.

“The goal in the first election was not to win; the goal was to get in the runoff because everyone starts fresh in a runoff,” Lasater said.

He said his eight years as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office have aided the community, and he will continue to help as a councilman.

“Of course we are going to try to hold on to the voters we have got and increase the voter turnout, which is going to be very hard. We are working to get voters who voted for the candidates not in the runoff and trying to expand our reach into different communities,” he said.

Riddlesperger said the candidates will have a hard time getting voters out to the polls again, since there are no other issues on the ballot and because the election is during the summer, when many people are out of town.

He said door-to-door campaigning and personal phone calls will make a difference.

“I will imagine it will get lower, which is hard to imagine as low as it was,” said Riddlesperger about voter turnout. Only 9 percent of registered voters voted in the District 9 race.

None of the other candidates — Margot Garza, Greg Hughes, Juan Rangel III or Bernie Scheffler — have endorsed either Lasater or Zadeh.

Burns, who has represented the area since 2008, announced his resignation in February.

Questionable campaigning

Both Lasater and Zadeh said they plan to wage a “clean” campaign, especially after a mailer slamming Garza and robo calls bad-mouthing Lasater and Zadeh were reported just days before the May 10 election.

The mailer, which was “paid for by the Juan Rangel Campaign,” berates Garza, a Hispanic candidate, for working against the Latino community for endorsing Democratic state Representative Lon Burnam instead of his opponent, Ramon Ramero Jr., and because she did not endorse Sergio De Leon in a Tarrant County justice of the peace race.

Garza was not available for a comment.

The robo calls also reportedly bashed Lasater for being too conservative and Zadeh for being too liberal.

“I don’t think partisan politics have any place in this race,” Lasater said. “I think it was a group of people trying to taint the election [who were] not affiliated with any candidate, and I wish they would stay out of it. It perverts the democratic process when people spread lies about any candidate.”

“The mailer against Margot was also very disappointing. … I think Margot ran a great campaign, and I think that mailer had an adverse effect on how she would have done,” Lasater said.

Zadeh said she was “disappointed” in the negative campaigning.

“I thought those personal attacks were uncalled for,” she said.

Riddlesperger said negative campaigning is a two-edged sword.

“The reason people use negative ads is because they work,” he said, but then Riddlesperger added, “you are likely to turn some people away from voting altogether.”

The ghost candidate, Juan Rangel III

Rangel, 28, did not attend any of the candidate forums, did not file the required campaign finance reports on time and has yet to return calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.

After calls from city staff and letters sent by certified mail, however, Rangel filed both of the required campaign finance reports May 13, over a month past the first deadline of April 10 and over a week past the the second deadline of May 2.

His first report, which covers March 10 to April 30, lists no contributions, loans and expenditures.

His second report, which covers May 2-10, lists a $783 outstanding loan from Juan Rangel II. It also lists $783 in expenditures but does not describe where the money was spent or on what, as required in the report.

May 1 is not covered in the campaign finance reports, and Rangel has yet to file his personal financial statement.

In a statement, Billy Begley, city spokesman, said there is no penalty the city can levy regarding the “late filing or incomplete nature of the campaign finance reports.”

“The recourse would be to file a complaint with the Ethics Commission. Or you can contact the candidate personally as their contact information is on the form. We are the repository for the filings only,” he said.

According to Texas Local Government Code 254, someone who knowingly files a report late is subject to a fine. Failing to file the personal finance statement is a Class B misdemeanor, and the candidate could face up to $1,000 in civil penalties.

Burns, who is headed to the the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts to get a Mid-Career Master in Public Administration, said anyone who violates state election law should be held accountable for their actions.

“For someone to apply to have their name on the ballot and then to not even meet basic election law is a mockery of our democratic process,” Burns said. “And I’m disappointed that Mr. Juan Rangel has not, to my understanding, been involved civically to date.”

In the end, Rangel received 152 votes, or 4.73 percent of the vote in Saturday's election. Garza got 459 votes and came in fourth, behind Greg Hughes.

Join the Discussion

Fort Worth Star-Telegram is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQ | Terms of Service