Why you're likely to hear from the Tarrant County tax assessor candidates

These are the candidates you’ll see on the Tarrant County primary runoff ballots in May

For the May 2018 Tarrant County primary runoff races, voters will be given a ballot with either Republican or Democratic candidates. Here are all of the races and candidates on both ballots.
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For the May 2018 Tarrant County primary runoff races, voters will be given a ballot with either Republican or Democratic candidates. Here are all of the races and candidates on both ballots.

The battle to become Tarrant County’s next top tax official is heating up again.

A field of four Republicans was whittled down to two on March 6, and now voters will decide whether former Mansfield Councilwoman Wendy Burgess or former TV anchorman Mike Snyder will move on to the general election in November.

Burgess and Snyder are taking to the streets and warming up phone lines, trying to reach potential voters to spread the word about why she or he would be the best person to serve as Tarrant County tax assessor-collector.

Their deadline looms: May 22, the day of the primary runoff election.

"Turnout is so sketchy," said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. "A small group turns out for primary elections and that goes down even more for runoff elections.

"This will be a question of who gets their voters out to vote," he said. "You need a lot of personal contact at this point — a lot of mailers, a lot of phone calls and a lot of knocking on doors."

This is one of a handful of races on Tarrant County primary runoff ballots, along with the battle for the 6th Congressional District for both Republicans and Democrats and the Democratic battle to determine which candidate will square off against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in November.

The tax assessor race heads to a runoff because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote during the primary election. So the top two vote-getters, Burgess, who claimed 31 percent, and Snyder, who drew 25 percent, will be on the runoff ballot.

The winner of the May runoff faces Democrat Ollie Anderson in November.

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

Early voting for the primary runoff runs May 14-18.

Wendy Burgess

Burgess said she's trying to spread her message — that she's the person with the business experience and knowledge of the community needed to lead the tax office — to potential voters.

"My experience in running businesses and being plugged in to the people of Tarrant County for over a decade" is key, said Burgess, wife of Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess and managing director/owner of IT Services company.

"I enjoy working for the people and being a servant for the people," she said. "I will continue getting the message out properly, that I am the right person for the job."

Burgess has picked up a number of endorsements since the primary election, including those by County Judge Glen Whitley, Commissioners Gary Fickes and J.D. Johnson, District Clerk Tom Wilder — and former challenger Rick Barnes.

She spent around $150,000 on this race through the March 6 primary, which included more than $100,000 that she loaned the campaign. Riddlesperger said $150,000 is not out of the norm to spend on a countywide race.

As of the last campaign filing, she had $16,000 on hand, the most recent reports show.

"I have a large personal investment in this," Burgess said, referring to the loan she gave her campaign. "I invested in myself before I asked anyone else to."

Burgess said she believes voters will scrutinize candidates more heading into the runoff election.

And that's fine by her.

"I believe in personal responsibility and financial responsibility," she said. "That's very important for this job."

Mike Snyder

Snyder, a former anchorman for KXAS/Ch. 5 making his first bid for public office, said he's working "24/7/365" on his campaign.

He's keeping much of what he's doing for his election bid under wraps, but said he's trying to meet and talk to as many people as he can.

His main message is that "this is not a job. It's a mission."

"I am going to be the voice for the taxpayer," he said.

If elected, he said he has many goals, including using Lean Six Sigma business practices to lower operating costs in the Tax Assessor collector's office and speaking out on behalf of Tarrant County taxpayers.

Snyder has been up front about owing the Internal Revenue Service for early withdrawals from his retirement accounts years ago. He withdrew money to pay for medical bills after his wife, Lyn, had a major heart attack in 2008. He said he knew he would face penalties for withdrawing money early from his account. And while he said he has paid the taxes due on the withdrawal, he still owes for the penalty on the early withdrawal, which he has said is likely less than $40,000 now.

He spent around $19,000 on his campaign through the primary, leaving him with about $4,500 on hand and an outstanding loan he made to the campaign of $1,350, the most recent campaign finance reports show.

Snyder also has picked up a number of endorsements since the primary, including those from Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, and a large number of precinct chairs.

"The strategy is to make sure people understand we have a vision for this office," he said.

Political moves

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

He heads 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.

As for the tax assessor post, four Republicans sought this job in the March primary.

Burgess and Snyder received the most votes, followed by Barnes, a former Keller Mayor pro tem, who picked up nearly 23 percent, and Trasa Robertson Cobern, a Hurst councilwoman and daughter of “Uncle Si” Robertson on the popular reality show “Duck Dynasty,” who earned 21 percent.

Candidates in this race have long acknowledged 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. Officials in dozens of cites and school boards countywide set the tax rates. Then the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector calculates taxes due, sends out the bills, collects the money and sends revenue collected to the taxing entities.

Burgess and Snyder 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.

"Both are running as the one true conservative," said Riddlesperger of TCU. "But it really doesn't matter if you are a conservative or a liberal when you are collecting taxes. It's a job and you want someone who can do it efficiently."

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley