Ann Zadeh, the front-runner for Fort Worth City Council District 9 in the May 10 election, is now backed by two of the most powerful employee groups in the city: the Fort Worth Police Officers Association and the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Local 440.
She was endorsed last week by a former opponent, Bernie Scheffler, who was one of the six original candidates until the race was culled down to Zadeh and Ed Lasater for a June 21 runoff.
Zadeh, 47, received 31.29 percent of the vote in May. Lasater, 44, came in second with 24.01 percent.
Lasater has received financial backing from key community leaders, such as Sid Bass and Marty Leonard. On his website, his endorsements include U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.
Zadeh did not have a firm stance on the tense pension talks between the city and the police and firefighter associations.
The City Council recently reduced pension benefits for all three of the city’s employee groups — police, fire and general employees — but Zadeh said she hasn’t “looked into their decision thoroughly.”
She said there are concerns about the stability of the pension fund, but she wants to make sure the police and firefighters’ positions are heard by the council.
The city facing a lawsuit from police on the changes, with Steve Hall, former president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, and Rick Van Houten, the current president, filing a federal suit in November 2012. The Fort Worth Professional Firefighters also filed a suit in January.
In response to the endorsements, Lasater said it is “important to pay attention to records and not just rhetoric.”
“If people want to know where I stand on public safety and working with police and firefighters, they just need to look at my record. I spent eight years doing it,” Lasater said, referring to the time he worked as a prosecutor at the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
Lasater said his commitment to both groups is to have an “open and honest and relationship” in working on issues like pensions, though he also did not have a firm stance.
The firefighters’ association made the announcement via Facebook saying, “Ft. Worth Local 440 is proud to announce our official endorsement of Ann Zadeh for Fort Worth City Council District 9.”
“We just looked at her past experience on the zoning commission, her formal education with city planning and the fact that she had been real involved with the community, and we feel like she is going to listen to the citizens and what they want,” said Mike Drivdahl, the public relations director for the firefighters association.
“We live here, too, and we work here and we want what is best for the city as well,” Drivdahl said.
Lloyd Cook, the political action committee chairman for the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said in a statement that members attended candidate forums and interviewed both Zadeh and Lasater to make the decision.
Cook said they were “very interested in the race” because “rarely do the citizens of Ft. Worth have the opportunity to select a City Council representative from candidates who haven't previously held the office.”
“Our knowledge of the district combined with the conversations with the candidates led us to enthusiastically support Ann,” Cook said in a statement. “Ed is a very successful attorney, businessman and a very capable candidate, but Ann's city planning experience and long-term neighborhood involvement aligned her more closely with the community policing concept and the needs of the officers that serve these neighborhoods.”
Zadeh said, “I was flattered they chose me and I think they see I will listen to their concerns and be a good representative for the district.”
Early voting in the race started Monday and ends June 17.