Republicans still reign in Tarrant County

Tim O'Hare

Results of Tuesday’s midterm elections proved again that Tarrant County is still a Republican stronghold.

Republicans won a majority of races up and down the ballot, starting with Democrat Beto O’Rourke loss in Tarrant County to Republican Greg Abbott in the governor’s race after narrowly outpolling Ted Cruz countywide in the U.S. Senate race in 2018.

Abbott defeated O’Rourke 51.3 to 47.24 percent in the county vote. Statewide, Abbott won with almost 55% of the vote.

The closest statewide contest result on the Tarrant County ballot was between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who defeated Democratic challenger Mike Collier by 49.7 to 47.3 percent. Collier was the only candidate on the ballot endorsed by retiring County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican, who made headlines for his cross-over choice. Statewide, Patrick won with nearly 54 percent.

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In the marquee Tarrant County races Republican Tim O’Hare defeated Democrat Deborah Peoples in the county judge contest and Republican Phil Sorrells defeated Democrat Tiffany D. Burks to become the county’s next district attorney.

“I can’t think of a single example of any surprises in the outcome of the election in Tarrant County or Texas,” said James Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.

Despite their losses, there were also bright spots for Democrats in the results. Democrat Alisa Simmons defeated Republican Andy Nguyen in the County Commissioner Precinct 2 race.

Nguyen was elected to the Precinct 2 commissioner seat in 2010 and served until he was defeated by the current officeholder, Devan Allen in 2018. After Allen opted not to seek re-election, Nguyen decided to run against Simmons for the seat.

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 “A Democrat win in that seat is very significant as we fight (redistricting) lawsuits in the courts next year,” said Matt Angle, Matt Angle, founder and director of the Democrat-supporting Lone Star Project PAC. “Winning this seat was one of our to priorities this year.”

Also, results of the county judge and district attorney races were both races were closer than expected and far narrower than Fort Worth Republican State Rep. Craig Goldman’s 16.4 point victory over Democrat Laurin McLaurin in the District 97 race.

Similarly, Fort Worth Republican State Rep. Charlie Geren defeated Democratic challenger Mimi Coffey by 23.7 points.

O’Hare defeated Peoples 53 to 47 and Sorrells defeated Burks 53.25 to 46.75 percent.

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“There has been a shift and the gap between Republicans and Democrats is narrower than it was four years ago,” Riddlesperger said.

Turnout in Tarrant County of 46.7 percent of registered voters – who cast 592,000 votes – lagged behind 2018 turnout of the 632,587 votes cast by 55.7 percent of registered voters.

As the 13th largest county in Texas, behind Harris and Dallas counties, Tarrant is the only county of the state’s large urban counties to trend Republican.

“The fact that there was no outside money put into either race indicates that Tarrant County is really purple and it might not be long before Democrats can win in those down-ballot races due to growing diversity,” Angle said.

The county judge race was a contest between O’Hare, a Trump-endorsed far-right conservative from Southlake, and Democrat Deborah Peoples, a retired vice-president for AT&T and a perennial candidate for top elective positions in Fort Worth, where she lives. She was the first black woman to be elected as chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party.

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, who defeated Fort Worth’s popular former mayor, Betsy Price, in the Republican primary.

O’Hare will succeed Whitley, who will retire at the end of the year after serving as county judge since 2007. Before being elected as county judge, he served as a county commissioner for 10 years.

“Thank you, Tarrant County,” O’Hare stated on Twitter. “What an honor to be your next county judge. I will work hard every day to make the greatest in America even better.”

Sorrells, who will succeed Sharen Wilson as district attorney, served as judge of Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 10 for 25 years. Prior to being elected judge, Sorrells was an assistant district attorney who prosecuted felony criminal cases.

Besides Whitley and Allen, County Precinct 4 Commissioner J.D. Johnson is also retiring this year. Republican Manny Ramirez, a former Fort Worth police officer and president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, was elected to succeed Johnson.

In addition to Abbott and Patrick,. Republicans were elected to all of Texas’ top statewide offices: Ken Paxton, attorney general; Glenn Hegar, comptroller of public accounts; Dawn Buckingham, land commissioner; Sid Miller, agriculture commissioner and Wayne Christian, railroad commissioner.