Democrats plan to take over Tarrant County, starting with city council races in May

Arlington resident claims victory in standoff over term limits

Zack Maxwell, who led the petition drive in Arlington for strong, retroactive term limits for council members, said the city's alternate proposition "was done to deliberately create confusion."
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Zack Maxwell, who led the petition drive in Arlington for strong, retroactive term limits for council members, said the city's alternate proposition "was done to deliberately create confusion."

Buoyed by their gains in Tarrant County last November, Democratic organizers are now taking aim on municipal elections in May.

Credit Beto O’Rourke’s impact on down-ballot races or President Donald Trump’s effect on energizing opposition, but Democrats see an opportunity.

And they can point to the successes of Democrat Beverly Powell ousting Republican Konni Burton in the District 10 Texas Senate race and Devan Allen surprising GOP incumbent Andy Nguyen in the Precinct 2 Tarrant County Commissioner race.

“We are definitely interested in the municipal races this year,” said Allison Campolo of Tarrant Together, which is trying to turn Tarrant County blue. “The results from the November 2018 election have given some clear indications as to voter preferences, even as can be translated to a nonpartisan race. We see that people are interested in goals which keep everyone safe and give everyone equal access to opportunity.”

In Arlington, where the passage of term limits has led to three open seats on the City Council, activists are planning get-out-the vote efforts.

A total of 17 candidates have filed for the mayor’s race and four City Council seats. Three longtime incumbents — Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff and Michael Glaspie — can’t seek re-election on May 4 because of term limits.

Campolo, a Euless Democrat, lost the Democratic primary to Powell but then organized a get-out the vote campaign in the state Senate race. Campolo said Tarrant Together will be focusing on municipal races in Arlington, Fort Worth and Hurst-Euless-Bedford.

“Tarrant County has an extremely low voter participation rate for a densely populated urban county,” Campolo said. “Historically, the higher the participation rate, the more more likely that voters will choose candidates who believe in equal opportunity. Since it’s almost impossible to accurately and efficiently reach everyone by phone or mail, we intend to go door to door to unregistered or nonactive voters to encourage them to register and participate in the upcoming election.”

Another Democrat, Syed Hassan, who lost the primary race for Precinct 2 primary race to Allen, is also getting involved in Arlington.

Hassan has formed a political action committee, Coalition for a Better Arlington, which will vet candidates on progressive issues. Some of its focuses include public transportation, fracking and clean air. Other issues, such as how the city spends its money, may find common ground with conservatives, Hassan said.

“What we feel is the current city government is appeasing large businesses and not catering to the needs of city residents,” said Hassan, who is also involved in the new progressive website,

On the conservative side, mayoral challenger Ashton Stauffer has invited former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to speak in Arlington on April 8. Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court in July 2017 for disobeying a judge’s order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants. He was pardoned by President Donald Trump a month later.

That appearance is sure to draw attention and Arpaio told the Star-Telegram: “The more demonstrators, the better.”

Zack Maxwell, a conservative who is publisher of the Arlington Voice and one of the term limits organizers, said Democrats have a strong network in Arlington.

“I think you’re going to see the city shift more to the left before it shifts to the right,” Maxwell said. “The Democrats are better organized than the Republicans.”

But Maxwell said term limits helped attract more candidates to run.

“I think it’s absolutely having that effect,” Maxwell said. “We absolutely feel like the term limits are getting candidates to run outside that traditional good ol’ boy network.”

Term limit supporters are exploring the idea of surveying City Council candidates about whether they will pledge not to overturn term limits if elected, Maxwell said

Will this political activism make any difference in the City Council elections?

Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, is skeptical.

“It’s important to remember to separate partisan and non-partisan elections,” Marshall said. “It’s pretty hard to get a spillover effect.”

The establishment candidates will likely have the advantage in name recognition and a larger amount of cash on hand, Marshall said.

“I think it’s an uphill climb,” Marshall said. “It’s always an uphill climb for those who aren’t part of the downtown business crowd.”

Arlington City Council Candidates

Mayor Jeff Williams (i), Chris Dobson, Ashton Stauffer and Ruby Faye Woolridge

District 3 Roxanne Thalman(i), Marvin Sutton

District 4 Cyndi Golden, Andrew Piel and Teresa Rushing

District 5 Kennedy Jones, Celia Morgan, Ignacio Nunez and Andy Prior

District 8 Robert Harris, Joshua Taylor, Don Warner and Barbara Odom-Wesley

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Bill Hanna is an award-winning reporter who has covered just about every beat at the Star-Telegram. He currently covers Arlington but also writes about a variety of subjects including weather, wildlife, traffic and health.