In the fight for Fort Worth mayor, incumbent Betsy Price has outraised and outspent her opponents by six figures.
Across the city council elections, incumbents have more cash on hand than their challengers, but Price’s more than $432,000 is the largest account. She has spent more than $150,000 so far, largely on campaign events and advertising. Challenger Deborah Peoples, chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, has just under $40,000 in the bank and has spent about $33,000.
In the at-large race for two seats on the Tarrant Regional Water District Board, newcomer Gary Moates has the most cash, but incumbents Jim Lane and Marty Leonard are backed by the same political action committee.
The first round of campaign finance reports for the 2019 election were due Thursday. Voters take to the polls Saturday, May 4, but early voting starts April 22.
Peoples was confident Friday that despite being outspent her campaign was off to a successful start. The campaign, she said, has been entirely grassroots with more than 160 volunteers going door-to-door.
“We knew all along we would not be able to outraise an incumbent,” she said. “We’re getting our message out voter by voter.”
Peoples said she expected an uptick in donations before the final finance filing on April 26.
The deficit between the Price and Peoples campaigns was not a surprise to Rebecca Deen, associate professor and chair of the University of Texas at Arlington political science department.
Price’s “straight down the middle” style of campaigning and governing since first taking office in 2011 has garnered significant support. That presents a hurdle for any challenger who will have to convince donors to move away from the establishment, she said.
Peoples’ volunteers may be crucial to making up for her campaign’s lower funds. Targeted messaging to groups who feel disenfranchised by current leadership, combined with a solid effort to encourage voting could flip an election, Deen said, especially since voter turnout has historically been below 10 percent in Fort Worth.
“What she’s got to do is be more efficient with the money she does have,” Deen said of Peoples. “If you mobilize enough people, you can have an impact.”
Calls to Price’s campaign were not returned as of 3 p.m. Friday.
James McBride, another mayoral candidate, has raised and spent $112. Write-in contender Mike Haynes did not report any contributions or expenses.
Incumbent councilmen Jungus Jordan and Dennis Shingleton have the second and third most cash on hand at $85,866 and $84,872 respectively.
Jordan, first elected in 2005, is the longest-serving council member. His campaign in District 6 against political newcomers Daryl Davis and Rod Smith has spent about $35,000. Almost all of that has been with Fort Worth’s Eppstein Group, an advertising, public relations and lobbying firm.
Davis has more than $5,500 in cash, mostly in small donations and a $1,400 self loan. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s editorial board he has run a mostly grassroots campaign comprised of community listening sessions and door knocking.
United Fort Worth, a nonpartisan coalition, has backed Davis, promoting him on social media, organizing events and canvassing District 6 neighborhoods.
Daniel Garcia Rodriguez, a United Fort Worth co-founder, told the Star-Telegram in January the group would focus on District 6. On its Facebook page, United Fort Worth criticized Jordan’s vote against joining the SB4 lawsuit, his opposition to changing Jefferson Davis Park to Parque Unidad/Unity Park and his vote in favor of the Race and Culture Task Force report, among other things.
Shingleton, the District 7 incumbent, has also paid the bulk of his money to the Eppstein Group — more than $26,800 of the about $33,000 spent so far.
Shingleton also received $2,500 from Marty Leonard, an incumbent for the Tarrant Regional Water District board. Leonard donated the same amount to Price’s campaign.
Fort Worth Rep. Kay Granger has dipped in to the city council election through Shingleton. The congresswoman’s campaign fund donated $1,000 to to his election.
David Hawthorne, also running for District 7, selected modified reporting that does not require him to report finances unless he takes in or spends more than $500. A campaign finance report for Michael Matos, who also ran against Shingleton in 2017, was not immediately available Friday.
Among big donors in multiple races are the Fort Worth police and fire political committees.
Jordan and fellow incumbents Cary Moon, District 4; and Kelly Allen Gray, District 8; all received donations of $15,000 from the Committee for Public Safety, an arm of the police officers association. The firefighters committee also donated more than $2,500 to each of those candidates.
Tarrant Regional Water District
In the race for the water district board, Leonard and fellow incumbent Jim Lane have the backing of the Tarrant Water Alliance. The political action committee had just under $35,000 in cash on had and has spent $16,500 so far.
Leonard has spent $7,500 so far with more than $10,000 left in the bank. Lane has spent $14,250 and has about $7,600 on hand.
Among his donors is Granger, who gave $6,750.
The congresswoman’s son, J.D. Granger, is executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority — a entity of the water district in charge of coordinating and promoting the $1.17 billion Panther Island Project north of downtown Fort Worth.
Gary Moates has the most cash on hand with more than $50,500. He has spent about $4,800. Fellow newcomer Charles “C.B.” Team has spent $6,500 and has $17,000 in cash. One-time board member Mary Kelleher has just under $2,000 in cash and has spent a little more than that on her campaign.