Key local races influenced by money, friends


Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson Star-Telegram

The expected message from key Tarrant County Republican political races as returns rolled in on Super Tuesday was clear: Money talks.

Those with the most money to put into their campaign often win, and that happened in some closely watched local legislative races.

Second to that message, maybe not as loud but still clear, was another one: Friends talk, too.

How else to explain that Dee Anderson, Tarrant County’s sheriff since 2001, ran a barely noticeable campaign to counter an opponent who was well-funded, highly visible and prominently backed — and yet Anderson managed to pull off a plurality in the vote count?

He must have a lot of friends.

True, it looks like Anderson, 59, will be in a runoff with Bill Waybourn, 56, police chief and chief of public safety in Dalworthington Gardens for 31 years.

Maybe the sheriff was just saving up his pizzazz for the runoff. He should now kick it up a notch, because Waybourn surely will be coming after him.

Three local legislative races were touted as barometers of how the conservative vs. ultra-conservative balance of the Texas House would go.

Charlie Geren, 66, the incumbent in Fort Worth’s District 99 since 2000, was the conservative challenged by Bo French, 46, who positioned himself as even more conservative.

Geren had a war chest second to none in Tarrant County, nearly $700,000 in early February. He also has a lot of friends, and early returns showed him well ahead.

Count it as a win for the conservative against the ultra-conservative.

It was just the opposite in Jonathan Stickland’s District 92 in Northeast Tarrant County and Tony Tinderholt’s District 94 in Arlington.

Both are poster children for Texas Republicans’ ultra-conservative wing, and both appeared to headed for easy wins over conservative opponents.

Stickland is in his second two-year term and Tinderholt his first, so both have been at it long enough to build up their lists of friends.

Both were also well funded by Austin-based Empower Texans and by West Texas billionaire Farris Wilks and Midland oilman Tim Dunn.

Stickland, 32, an oil and gas consultant, appears to have held off a challenge from Scott Fisher, 57, a prominent Bedford pastor.

Tinderholt, 45, a retired Army officer, was well ahead of Arlington lawyer and political newcomer Andrew Piel, 43.

Both Fisher and Piel were launched in their campaigns by local backers. Maybe not enough of local backers, so count those two districts as ultra-conservative for another term.