Dems talk about turning Tarrant blue, but they’re not showing up

11/30/2013 5:14 PM

12/01/2013 7:22 AM

If Texas Democrats are counting on Tarrant County to carry them to victory next fall, they’re in trouble.

For almost 20 years now, since 1994, Republicans have won every countywide office.

With no high-profile Democrat lined up for local office behind Fort Worth gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, that won’t change anytime soon.

Eight days before the Dec. 9 filing deadline, Republicans are guaranteed re-election in most county and local offices, because no Democrat is running.

In 1990, when Ann Richards carried Tarrant County on her way to winning the governorship, Democrats were also turning out to re-elect U.S. Rep. Pete Geren, elect state Sen. Mike Moncrief and re-elect Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis.

This year, Democrats have U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, but only unproven candidates for Moncrief and Davis’ old Senate seat.

“We can’t deny that Tarrant County is changing — the young people are more Democratic, and even a lot of the suburbanites moving here are coming from less conservative states than Texas,” said Weatherford College government instructor Darrell Castillo of Arlington, a former Reagan White House staffer.

“But it’ll be a long-term change. In Arlington, I see more people calling themselves independent. That doesn’t bode well for the long-term prospects of the Republican Party.”

Much has been made on Texas news pages of Tarrant County’s bellwether voting habits.

The county’s presidential vote almost exactly matches the statewide percentage, so national Democrats hope Davis’ groundwork leads voters their direction in 2016.

But that doesn’t seem likely, not when Democrats can’t challenge County Judge Glen Whitley, or when the county’s two most prominent Hispanic officials might be Republicans George P. Bush of Fort Worth and Arlington Councilman Robert Rivera.

Some of Texas’ top Democratic hopefuls are mayors.

But even the core urban cities of Fort Worth and Arlington, where voters went for President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, are led by Republicans.

“Tarrant County is the last holdout in Texas for urban Republicans, and that’s not going to change in 2014,” said UT Arlington political science professor Allan Saxe.

On the other hand, he also told Arlington Democrat Paula Pierson that she was “out of your mind” in 2006 to run for the Texas House against state Rep. Toby Goodman.

Pierson won the seat held today by Democrat Chris Turner.

Saxe noted the political flip-flop from President John F. Kennedy’s visit in 1963. Tarrant County was split 50-50 with a strong showing by Democratic defense workers, and Dallas County was 2-to-1 Republican.

“Dallas was one of the most conservative, hard-line reactionary cities in America, but not now,” Saxe said.

“It’s fascinating how both counties went opposite ways.”

Tarrant County isn’t close to changing its ways.

About Bud Kennedy

Bud Kennedy

@budkennedy

Bud Kennedy is a homegrown Fort Worth guy who started out covering high school football here when he was 16. He went away to the Fort Worth Press and newspapers in Austin and Dallas, then came home in 1981.

Since 1987, he's written more than 1,000 weekly dining columns and more than 3,000 news and politics columns. If you don't like what he says about politics, read him on barbecue.

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