Early voting underway for Nov. 8 election

Early voting for the midterm elections kicked off today across Texas to choose new officeholders for statewide and local seats.

Early voting runs through Nov. 4. Voters will also be able to cast ballots on Election Day, Nov. 8.

The ballot includes races for top statewide seats, including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The marquee race in Tarrant County is to replace Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, who is retiring from the position he has held since 2007.

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The other top race is to replace District Attorney Sharen Wilson, who also chose to retire from the post she assumed in 2015.

Legislative races for congressional seats as well as state house and senate seats are also on the ballot.

As the 15th largest county in the U.S. and the third-largest in Texas, third in both rankings behind Harris and Dallas counties, Tarrant is an anomaly among the state’s largest urban counties as it continues to trend Republican while the others trend Democratic.

While Beto O’Rourke narrowly defeated U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in Tarrant County in 2018 and President Joe Biden narrowly defeated former President Donald Trump in 2020, county level races were largely won by Republicans.

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“I would call Tarrant County purplish-red,” said Matt Angle, founder and director of the Democratic-supporting Lone Star Project PAC.

But Tarrant County’s rapid population growth, especially its black and Hispanic population growth, could tilt the county toward Democrats, depending on turnout.

“I don’t have a good crystal ball but turnout in Tarrant County and Texas tends to be lower in the midterms than in presidential elections and we don’t have a (U.S.) senate race on the ballot like other states do to drive turnout,” said James Riddlesperger, political science professor at Texas Christian University.

“I expect that we will see a continuation of Republican dominance in Tarrant County unless we see a very high turnout of about 70 percent among Latino voters,” he said.

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The county judge race is a contest between Republican Tim O’Hare, a far-right conservative, who has been endorsed by Trump, and Democrat Deborah Peoples, a retired vice-president for AT&T and former county Democratic chair.

O’Hare, an attorney, is a former chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party as well as a former Farmers Branch mayor and council member.

During his tenure in Farmers Branch, O’Hare made national headlines for efforts to ban landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants, to make English the official language of Farmers Branch and to stop funding programs serving children of undocumented immigrants in the community cv with a large Latino population.

Numerous lawsuits resulting from those policies were ruled unconstitutional by a federal court and cost the city about $6.6 million in legal fees, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Peoples, the first black woman to be elected chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, twice ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Fort Worth, once against former Mayor Betsy Price and the second time against current Mayor Mattie Parker.

Angle said that Tarrant County has a long history of electing county judges who are business-oriented Republicans and who have made a priority of working across the aisle to better the lives of county residents.

The Republican candidate for Tarrant County District Attorney is Phil Sorrells, who has served as judge of Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 10 for 25 years and was previously an assistant district attorney who prosecuted felony criminal cases.

The Democratic candidate for the office is Tiffany Burks, an attorney, who worked as a Tarrant County prosecutor since 1999.  In 2008 she was promoted to the position of chief assistant district attorney of the felony division and was deputy chief of the criminal division from 2015 to 2021.

Registered voters can cast early votes at any of the county’s 50 vote centers. Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24-28; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 30; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31; and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 1-4.

Tarrant County is offering free rides to the polls on public transportation throughout early voting and on election day.