The powerful messages from local elections

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck hugs Klata Peacock at his election night watch party at River Legacy Living Science Center on Saturday.
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck hugs Klata Peacock at his election night watch party at River Legacy Living Science Center on Saturday. Star-Telegram

For Robert Cluck, Saturday’s election results must hurt more than he lets on.

After 12 years as Arlington’s mayor, a remarkably long period of service that itself followed two terms on the City Council, he was seeking his seventh two-year term. But voters turned him out for a fresh face, business leader Jeff Williams.

“I would like to have won, but it wasn’t in the cards. Jeff did a great job,” Cluck said of Williams’ convincing 58 percent of the vote. He said he would help the new mayor’s transition however he could, and he expressed hope that Williams and the eight-member City Council would work well together.

Four council members also were up for re-election Saturday, and all handily won.

If Cluck is hurt, he’s not wearing it on his sleeve. And that’s as it should be.

This election is not the measure of what he has done for the city, including bringing the Dallas Cowboys and AT&T Stadium to Arlington, and he must also know that. He can and must honor what he has helped accomplish through all these years by holding his head high.

The same can be said for some other honorable public servants who saw the political tables turn on them in this election. On the whole, it was a good day for incumbents, but there were notable exceptions besides Cluck.

In Arlington, challengers defeated school board members Gloria Peña and Peter Baron. And in Fort Worth, five-term council member Danny Scarth was trounced by developer and homeowner association president Cary Moon in a race that demonstrated powerful demands for city attention to the far north side.

Peña and Baron were part of a board team that created a comprehensive strategic plan for Arlington schools. They built public confidence to the point that, one year ago, voters gave 70 percent approval to a $663.1 million bond program.

Clearly that confidence eroded, as retired teacher Polly Walton defeated Peña with 55.9 percent of the vote, and political newcomer but vocal board critic Kristen Hudson edged out Baron with 50.5 percent. A third board member, Aaron Reich, barely beat 44-year teacher Maryhelen Bronson, getting 50.4 percent of the vote.

Peña’s loss leaves the Arlington board without a Hispanic member in a city that is 27 percent Hispanic. It should renew discussion of electing the board from single-member districts.

In Fort Worth, it was clear from the beginning that Scarth faced a significant challenge from Moon. Scarth’s District 4 political base is in east Fort Worth, where he grew up and was elected to represent on the council in 2006. But redistricting in 2012 added north Fort Worth to his district.

Moon’s election shows the strength of the far north’s demands for city services. The message was reinforced by results in neighboring District 2, where Councilman Sal Espiño narrowly escaped defeat with just a 27-vote advantage over challenger Steve Thornton.