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Arlington incumbent, Bedford businessman take TCC board seats

Northeast Tarrant County added a new trustee to the Tarrant County College District Board on Saturday, when business analyst Joe Hudson defeated Conrad Heede in the race to succeed longtime trustee and board president J. Ardis Bell.

Hudson, 63, has been a critic of the downtown Fort Worth TCC campus now under construction. He took about 70 percent of the vote, with 11 of 13 precincts reporting. Turnout at that point was about 5 percent of registered voters. Incumbent Kristin Vandergriff kept the District 3/Arlington area seat she first won in 2002 with 61.2 percent of the vote, with 20 of 21 precincts reporting.

Vandergriff, 51, is a community volunteer and has been a proponent of the downtown Fort Worth campus.

Campaign highlights

The contest was highlighted by record spending as critics of the TCC downtown Fort Worth campus now estimated to cost $257 million encouraged opponents of incumbent Vandergriff and Heede.

As of early May, Vandergriff had been outspent significantly by challenger Jerry Pikulinski, a retired economist. Both Pikulinski and Hudson received substantial contributions from Larry Meeker, a Fort Worth businessman who financed a Web site that criticized the Fort Worth campus and supported the candidates who agreed.

Meeker mailers carried headlines that read: "...newspaper secures secret report warning TCC about rapes, crime at TCC’s new Downtown Fort Worth campus!"

Through early May, Pikuliniski reported receiving $11,000 in contributions from Meeker; Hudson reported more than $16,000 from Meeker. What they said

Hudson: “People in this district want to see the Northeast Campus built up. I think my election may make board members say maybe we can do thing different.”

Vandergriff: “I’m delighted. I think District 3 voted in the best interest of students and the college district itself.”

Heede: “I just feel like the election has been purchased by Mr. Meeker. I just love Tarrant County College and I just wish I could have been on the board.”

What’s next?

The winners will be sworn in on either May 19 or June 18, depending on their schedules, a district spokesman said.