In a Fort Worth election with everything but winners, Betsy Price’s team celebrates

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All this election had was 23 candidates in one race, a convicted felon, an obnoxious ex-wrestler from Nevada and a last-minute smear campaign accusing a frontrunner of murder.

What it didn’t have was a winner. At least, not very many.

Runoffs will decide the next congressman or congresswoman from Arlington, the next mayors of Fort Worth and Arlington and six more seats on the Fort Worth and Arlington city council and county college board.

The clear winner Saturday night wasn’t even on the ballot.

Mayor Betsy Price won twice. She helped lift her former chief of staff, Mattie Parker, into a June 5 runoff trailing Deborah Peoples but with at least an even chance to become the first millennial mayor of any city with nearly 1 million people.

Then, in an outright victory, two Price allies took control of the Panther Island project rechanneling the Trinity River, saying goodbye to ousted Tarrant Regional Water District board President Jack Stevens as the board majority shifted away from U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s control.

“I’m excited about this,” Price said in an understatement Saturday as Parker’s watch party at Lola’s Trailer Park began taking on a Billy-Bob’s-on-New-Year’s-Eve party vibe.

Every person passing the 10th-year mayor grabbed her, hugged her or twirled her as Parker welcomed well-wishers nearby.

“Most people agree the river project needs new ideas,” she said.

She praised Parker but looked down and shook her head sadly at the mention of Councilman Brian Byrd.

Byrd, the early frontunner, was only drawing abouit 15% of the the vote for his vague campaign against unnamed “powerful insiders” downtown.

“I was very unhappy with Brian,” Price said.

“I was very disgusted that he talked about Mattie and ‘corruption.’ We usually don’t do that in Fort Worth.”

Parker said making the runoff in the face of Byrd’s attacks was “vindication.”

“That’s not who he really is,” she said, blaming the campaign staff. “I just think we ran really different campaigns. ... We tried to be positive and that resonated with people.”

Peoples and Parker now face another month of forums — they’ve already done 15, mostly on Zoom — before early voting starts May 24.

“I like her,” Parker said. “We’ll both be working to get our voters back to the polls.”

(Peoples, a political veteran, welcomed friends at home Saturday with less hoopla.)

Price called Peoples, a former AT&T executive and currently the county Democratic chairwoman, “energetic and enthusiastic. She really works hard. She’s just a little more partisan than I’d like.”

SIgns for District 6 candidates Susan Wright and Dan Rodimer both promote Donald Trump at the Mansfield subcourthouse.
SIgns for District 6 candidates Susan Wright and Dan Rodimer both promote Donald Trump at the Mansfield subcourthouse.

Other Democrats did not do as well as Peoples. With suburban voters voting more hardline Republican in what amounted to the first midterm election of President Joe Biden’s term, Fort Worth Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez was in danger of missing the Congressional District 6 runoff.

The lawn of the Mansfield subcourthouse had a flea market atmosphere Saturday, with District 6 and local candidates lined up along the walkway in tents and other candidates shouting over portable PA systems about their federal, county, city or school board campaigns.

Fort Worth Republican District 6 candidate Michael Wood, a critic of former President Donald Trump, talks to a voter at the Mansfield subcourthouse.
Fort Worth Republican District 6 candidate Michael Wood, a critic of former President Donald Trump, talks to a voter at the Mansfield subcourthouse.

“I have never seen as many signs, candidate tents — people here are putting on a wonderfuil show of democracy,” political consultant Tyler Norris said.

“But it’s a lot.”

The 23-candidate field included former pro wrestler Dan Rodimer, who moved to Mansfield days before the candidate filing deadline. The election was rocked late by an unidentified robocall blaming Arlington Republican Susan Wright for her late husband’s death from COVID-19.

Wright was locked in a three-way race with Sanchez and Waxahachie Republican Jake Ellzey for two runoff spots.

Rodimer was holding steady at 3%.

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