Texas Politics

Red or blue? Whatever color Tarrant County becomes in 2020, the country is watching

Look around Tarrant County.

This area — from the heart of Fort Worth and Arlington to the suburbs in Euless and Southlake — is a key battleground in the 2020 election.

Local Republicans and Democrats are gearing up, especially as the national spotlight shines on Tarrant County and others that could be key in the battle for the White House.

Tarrant recently was named one of “10 counties that will decide the 2020 election” by The Hill in Washington, D.C.

“The critical tipping points are as diverse as the American electorate,” the article said. “Some are suburban neighborhoods where both Trump and former President Obama won.

“Others are longtime Republican strongholds that show signs of slipping.”

Democrat Beto O’Rourke edged Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Tarrant County last year, drawing national attention.

“Rapid population growth in Texas’s largest cities is masking another troubling trend for the state’s dominant Republican Party: Their margins of victory are declining even in historically red regions,” the article stated. “Tarrant County, home of Fort Worth, is one of those regions.”

Guiding Tarrant

Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Darl Easton announced Thursday night that he will not seek a second term.

Rick Barnes — a former Keller councilman who unsuccessfully sought the post of Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector last year — has told fellow Republicans that he is in the race for chairman.

“I do think that 2018 was a wake up call for Republicans everywhere,” Barnes said. “We’ve got time to prepare for 2020, but that time is flying by.

“We are going to have to work harder than we have recently because Democrats have stepped up more than in years past,” he said. “But Republicans ... are ready for the battle.”

Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Peoples, who unsuccessfully ran for Fort Worth mayor in May, will seek another term. She has served in the position since 2013 and no one has announced a challenge.

Democrats say they are working with groups to generate support for their candidates and believe Republicans have “maxed out” the number of votes they can draw in a presidential election in Tarrant County at around 350,000.

The party’s “main goal for 2020 is to flip seats and create bridges,” said Marco Rosas Jr., executive director of the Tarrant Democratic Party. “We need all hands on deck.

“TCDP will partner with anyone who is willing to work with us. Nobody will be left behind this cycle and beyond,” he said. “If we talk about the issues, our candidates and a future with no hate, then we have nowhere to go but up.”

Bellwether

Tarrant County has long been seen as a bellwether. The percentage of Tarrant voters backing Republicans in presidential elections matched the statewide results in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

But the GOP margin of victory has dropped in Tarrant County through the years.

In 2004, then-President George W. Bush won 62% of the vote in Tarrant, with nearly 350,000 votes. By 2016, President Donald Trump won with nearly 52% of the vote, claiming nearly 346,000 votes.

Then, in November 2018, O’Rourke bested Cruz in Tarrant County by 3,869 votes. But Cruz won Texas by a much more narrow margin than many expected: 50.89%, with just over 200,000 more votes than O’Rourke.

“Tarrant County hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson won his home state in 1964,” according to The Hill article. “But its booming population may change that.”

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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