Elections

Wendy Burgess, Mike Snyder head to a runoff in GOP quest for Tax Assessor

Wendy  Burgess campaigned Tuesday morning to be the GOP nominee for Tax Assessor in Tarrant County.
Wendy Burgess campaigned Tuesday morning to be the GOP nominee for Tax Assessor in Tarrant County. Star-Telegram

It was a close battle in the Republican race to become Tarrant County's next top tax official.

But it's not over yet.

No candidate claimed the needed 50 percent to avoid a runoff, which means the top two vote getters — former Mansfield Councilwoman Wendy Burgess and former TV anchorman Mike Snyder — are headed to a May 22 runoff to determine who will claim the party's nomination.

Burgess claimed 31 percent of the vote and Snyder claimed 25 percent, with all precincts reporting.

"I'm very happy," said Burgess, who said many assumed all along that this primary battle would lead to a runoff. "I live to fight another day.

"I will continue to work as hard as I have, for the next two months, to get the word and my message out to Tarrant County voters."

Snyder said his election watch party turned into a work party late Tuesday, as election results flowed in and a handful of supporters began talking strategy about the runoff election.

"I'm extremely excited about this," Snyder said. "We aren't celebrating anything. We are getting down to work.

"This is a matter of really keeping the campaign focused where I wanted it focused, and that's on where it will help the people of Tarrant County."

The winner of this Republican race will face Democrat Ollie Anderson in November.

At stake is an unexpired 2-year term that runs through 2020 and pays $172,481 a year plus a $7,884 car allowance.

"Good salary, pretty stable," said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

High demand

This year's fierce fight to become Tarrant County's Tax-Assessor Collector — a name most people recognize when they pay property tax bills once a year — caught many by surprise.

"The truth is, there's not a lot of turnover in Tarrant County," said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. "Often, once someone is in these (elected) offices, the positions don't come up (for election without an opponent) very often.

"This is the moment," he said. "It's a wonderful window of opportunity for those looking to move on politically."

This job opened up suddenly late last year when Ron Wright, a Republican, resigned the post to run for the 6th Congressional District.

He is headed to his own runoff election, against J.K. "Jake" Ellzey, hoping to win the GOP nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis. Late last year, Barton announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election after coming under fire for a nude photo and private messages with sexual overtones with a female constituent.

Unofficial results

Here's a look at how the candidates fared, according to complete and unofficial election results from Tarrant County.

Burgess, a former Mansfield councilwoman, is married to Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess and is the managing director and owner of IT Services company. She drew 31 percent.

Snyder, a former anchorman for KXAS/Ch. 5, is making his first bid for public office. He pulled 25 percent.

Rick Barnes, a 54-year-old insurance agent, is a former mayor pro tem and council member in Keller. He initially planned to run this year for the post of Tarrant County Republican Party Chair, but a flurry of last minute phone calls on the last day of filing convinced him to change course and run for this seat instead. He picked up 23 percent.

And Trasa Robertston Cobern, a teacher and Hurst City Council woman, is the daughter of "Uncle Si" Robertson on the popular reality show "Duck Dynasty." She claimed 21 percent.

Collecting tax money

Candidates in this race have long admitted that many people don't know exactly what the Tax Assessor Collector does.

The Tarrant Appraisal District sets the property values of homes and businesses. Then officials in dozens of cites and school boards countywide set the tax rates.

It is the Tarrant County Tax Assessor’s office that calculates taxes due, sends out the bills, collects the money and sends revenue collected to the taxing entities.

All four Republicans have said they will uphold the policy Wright set of not blocking vehicle registration in Tarrant County for motorists with unpaid red-light camera tickets.

Moving forward, voters should closely look at the candidates that make it to the runoff and give their votes to the one they believe would best run the tax office, said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.

"You want someone who can run an office efficiently and effectively, making it easy to pay taxes," he said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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