Fort Worth’s District 9 candidates on the prowl for runoff votes

Scott Nishimura

Ann Zadeh and Ed Lasater – the two candidates in the June 21 runoff to replace Fort Worth’s District 9 City Councilman Joel Burns – say they took Mother’s Day off and then plowed right back into the campaign. Zadeh, former Fort Worth Zoning Commission chair, was the leading vote-getter May 10 among the six candidates with 1,006 of 3,215 ballots cast. Lasater, a former Tarrant County prosecutor, had 772 votes. The candidates acknowledged the likely prospect of even lower turnout in the runoff, given the start of summer and the possible onset of election fatigue with three elections within six weeks, including the upcoming Texas Senate District 10 Republican runoff on May 27 between Konni Burton and Mark Shelton. “I would hope people stay engaged until the very end,” Zadeh said. “I think we’ll see well under 3,000” in the runoff, Lasater said. “I think we’re going to see in the 2,000-2,500 range.”

Early voting in the June 21 runoff begins June 9. Making the stretch-run strategy problematic: the difficulty in determining what impact, if any, Latino leaders’ dustup over who to back may have had in the first round of voting. And Tarrant County’s consolidation of 68 District 9 voting precincts into 22 larger “reporting” precincts has made it impossible to determine which candidates won historically key precincts, including Berkeley, Park Hill and Mistletoe Heights. Zadeh, who lives in Bluebonnet Hills, and Lasater, who lives in Berkeley, spent much of Election Day wooing voters outside Paschal High School, where their home precincts voted. Zadeh won 224 of 551 votes in the consolidated reporting Precinct 1108, over Lasater’s 170. The reporting precinct combined the votes of the Berkeley and Paschal neighborhoods, Bluebonnet Hills, TCU, Frisco Heights and University West. Beth Dipaolo, of the Tarrant County Election Administrator’s office, said the consolidation is a continuing aspect of May elections. In reviewing the names of absentee and early in-person voters before voting began, Lasater said his campaign spotted 200 names it hadn’t identified previously coming from South Hemphill corridor neighborhoods like South Hemphill Heights, Worth Heights and Rosemont.

“Those were all Margot’s,” he said, referring to Margot Garza, who got 459 votes to finish fourth behind Greg Hughes’ 548 and ahead of fifth place finisher Bernie Scheffler’s 278. “She did an outstanding job of outreach.” Garza had little campaign cash. In addition, Latino leaders, who have long said a Hispanic has no realistic shot of winning in District 9 because of heavy voting by white voters, backed Hughes instead of Garza. Garza also was the target of a last-day mailer from ghost candidate Juan Rangel III, who got 152 votes and finished sixth despite showing no signs of an active campaign and not filing to required campaign finance disclosures. The mailer accused Garza of disloyalty to Hispanics in backing her longtime friend, State Rep. Lon Burnam, in his losing re-election campaign against Ramon Romero, and supporting Mac Belmontes in his losing bid to unseat Justice of the Peace Sergio De Leon. Garza had acknowledged during the campaign that she had likely made enemies.

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Travis Parmer, Zadeh’s campaign manager, said he couldn’t assess the impact of the Rangel mailer. “That came very, very late,” he said. “There would be a substantial number of people who voted who didn’t see it.” Parmer said Zadeh’s team knew that Garza was running a strong grass-roots campaign. “We had people in the field, walking and knocking on doors, and I was getting regular reports of our people running into her people,” he said. Fernando Florez, one of the Hispanic leaders who backed Hughes, said his circle hasn’t decided who to back in the runoff. Florez first clashed with Lasater in 2010, when the two found themselves on opposite ends of a debate on a redrawing of Fort Worth school board districts. Lasater accused the board of diluting the voting power of the Paschal High School feeder by splitting up board oversight of the feeder schools. Lasater then backed a startup political action committee that recruited and campaigned for three candidates – Ashley Paz, Matt Avila and Jacinto Ramos Jr. – who won election to the board. Paz took out incumbent trustee Juan Rangel Jr. – Rangel III’s father – by 23 votes in a bitter campaign. “I think it’s going to be a close race,” Florez said. None of the candidates who finished out of the runoff has indicated he or she plans to endorse Zadeh or Lasater.

Here’s a look at the top-voting reporting precincts: • 1108, Zadeh, 224; Lasater, 170; Hughes, 110. Includes voting precincts 1108, 1298, 1408, 1434. • 1076, Mistletoe Heights, Park Hill, Colonial, 447 votes total: Lasater, 192 votes; Zadeh, 153; Hughes, 79. Voting precincts 1076, 1095. • 1062, Ryan Place, 368 votes total: Zadeh, 125; Scheffler, 69; Hughes, 64; Lasater, 63; Garza, 40. Voting precincts 1062, 1455, 1457, 1608, 1611, 4077, 4096. • 4057, Downtown, Trinity Terrace, Linwood, Monticello Park, West 7th, 286 votes total: Lasater, 116; Zadeh, 110; Hughes, 26. • 1109, Scenic Bluff, Charleston HOA, Riverside, Sylvan Heights West, Oakhurst, 239 votes total: Zadeh, 81; Hughes, 49; Lasater, 38; Garza, 37; Scheffler, 20. Voting precincts 1109, 1416, 1473, 4503, 4573, 4124. • 1165, South Hills, 199 votes total: Hughes, 69; Zadeh, 54; Lasater, 53. Voting precincts 1133, 1165, 1445. • 4060, Fairmount, 174 votes total: Zadeh, 68; Scheffler, 44; Lasater, 22; Garza, 18; Hughes, 16. 4060 lone voting precinct. • 1015, Alamo Heights, 138 votes total: Hughes, 37; Zadeh, 34; Lasater, 23. Voting precincts 1015, 1094, 1674, 1684. • 4195, Rosemont, Worth Heights, 122 votes total. Garza, 57; Rangel 21. Voting precincts 4155, 4195. • 4201, Worth Heights, 121 votes total: Garza, 92; Rangel 12; Zadeh, 11. 4201 lone voting precinct. • 4097, Ryan Place, 87 votes total: Zadeh, Garza, 26 votes apiece. Voting precincts 4485, 4478, 4312. • 4233, South Hemphill Heights, 73 votes total: Garza, 40. Voting precincts 4233, 4370, 4432.