Just 27 votes.
That was the difference between winning and losing Fort Worth’s District 2 City Council seat, representing the north side, in Saturday’s election.
Councilman Sal Espino, seeking his sixth term, won with 50.58 percent of the 2,315 ballots cast, according to Saturday’s election results. His challenger, retired firefighter Steve Thornton, said the race is too close to call without a recount and said he will request one Tuesday.
“The fact that there was just a 27-vote difference — I owe it to the 1,144 voters that went out to vote for me that there was no error that would rob them of their victory,” Thornton said.
Espino said he is confident the results will stand.
“We conducted a fair campaign; we conducted an honest campaign, and the results speak for themselves. It was a close election, but the voters exercised their right to vote and we should always protect that right to vote,” Espino said.
In Fort Worth’s other highly contested race — for District 4— Councilman Danny Scarth lost to challenger Cary Moon in a much more decisive outcome. Moon won 60 percent of the vote.
Scarth, first elected to the City Council in 2006, said he was disappointed in the results, which he credits largely to redistricting in 2013, but said he plans to look for a role in development or a nonprofit to continue to serve the community.
“I have enjoyed the last nine years as much as anything you can call a job, though this is really much more than that. It is an opportunity to be a servant as well as a leader, and you don’t get many opportunities to do that. I am very grateful,” Scarth said.
Moon, who will be sworn in June 2, has big plans for his district, including creating an arts district in the east, something like the trendy Bishop Arts District in Dallas, and setting specific development standards in the booming far north.
Other Fort Worth council members cruised to an easy victory Saturday.
Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, representing District 5, won against Bob Willoughby with 86 percent of the vote. Councilman Dennis Shingleton, representing District 7, won against Andy Gallagher with 79 percent. Kelly Allen Gray, representing District 8, won against Sharon Mason-Ford with 78 percent.
A close race
Frank Phillips, elections administrator for Tarrant County, said the recount in District 2 will be done by hand and should take about a day to complete after the request is filed.
Despite the results, Thornton said he netted a win of sorts.
“A margin that close shows that this district has not been represented,” he said. “It is an indication that the district needs and wants fair representation. It is an indication that this district no longer wants to be forgotten.”
Espino said the close race resulted from campaign strategies, saying he chose to run a positive campaign and not reply to negative mailers.
“I believe the majority of people in District 2 believe in my and my representation, and clearly we will continue to reach out to everyone,” Espino said, adding that he wants to focus on roads, code enforcement and public safety.
A new vision
Moon is a partner and board member of Castle Development Group, a commercial development and real estate firm based in Fort Worth; and CEO and owner of Moon Financial, a holding company for a portfolio of businesses and commercial properties.
He wants to use his experience in development and finances to give the east side — which has struggled to attract quality development — a boost.
“We are going to work towards rebranding and remarketing that area, including the exemplary public schools,” Moon said of east Fort Worth. “We are going to work on some private/public partnerships for revitalization of that area. It is all just imitating other models that have been successful. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
The first step in creating the arts district, which Moon said could stretch from east of downtown to the historic Handley neighborhood, would be to put together a team of residents and potentially other council members to create boundaries, come up with a name, recommend possible zoning changes and outline potential economic incentives.
Other top priorities include getting a district overlay in place to protect the character of the far north, finding inefficiencies in the fiscal 2016 budget, and improving communication in his council office by using interns and volunteers, Moon said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984