TRWD incumbents win Hard-fought, expensive election sees victory for Leonard, Lane

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The hard-fought race for two seats on the Tarrant Regional Water District board of directors ended May 9 with a sweeping victory by incumbents Jim Lane and Marty Leonard over three challengers.

The contentious race for the TRWD board, which saw extraordinary fundraising and extreme mud-slinging, re-elected Lane, 70, and Leonard, 78, to new four-year terms. Both received more than 33 percent of the vote. Lane received 17,357 votes and Leonard received 17,109 in the five-way race that elected the top two vote-getters.

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“This was not so much a victory for me and Marty as it was for the TRWD and its great professional staff who are truly the best in the state,” Lane said in an email. “The people who rely on TRWD for their water supply can rest assured that the quality of water will continue for years to come.”

Leonard and Lane ran as a slate with the backing of two political actions committee. One of those committees, Our Water, Our Future, with former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief as treasurer, raised more than $500,000 from some of the wealthiest individuals in Fort Worth and Dallas.

Challengers Michele Von Luckner and Craig Bickley also ran as a slate with the support of wealthy Dallas businessman Monty Bennett. Von Luckner received 7,649 votes or 14.8 percent; Bickley received 7,076 votes or 13.7 percent.

“We are disappointed in the results of this election given the clear and vocal resentment toward the ongoing actions of the Tarrant Regional Water District under Board President Vic Henderson,” Bickley and Von Luckner said in an email statement. “Our goal was to bring more attention to the actions of the board, and we succeeded.

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“As supporters of open government who have stood up against an establishment looking to advance their own interests, we will continue to speak up for Trustee Mary Kelleher and against the actions of the TRWD board,” Bickley and Von Luckner stated.

Challenger Keith Annis ran unaffiliated in the race. He received 2,428 votes or 4.7 percent.

More than $700,000 was raised in the race by the candidates and political action committees supporting them.

Lane and Leonard released attack ads that accused Bennett, along with Bickley and Von Luckner, of trying to seize control of Fort Worth’s water supply, a claim Bennett denied.

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Bennett, who owns hotel properties in Fort Worth, also lent financial backing to challengers in the 2013 water board election in which Kelleher unseated long-time board member Hal Sparks. Bennett’s interest in the TRWD is connected to his battle with the district over use of eminent domain to claim a portion of his Henderson County ranch for the $2.3 billion East Texas pipeline.

Bennett has sued theTRWD, alleging the district violated state open meeting and records laws in the process of trying to take his land.

Incumbents ousted in Arlington, Fort Worth

In Arlington, long-time Mayor Robert Cluck was ousted by challenger Jeff Williams, a local businessman. Arlington voters also overwhelmingly approved a ballot proposition to ban red-light cameras.

Williams received 15,500 votes, or 58 percent to Cluck’s 10, 461 votes or 39 percent. Two other candidates, Didmus B. Banda and Jerry Pikulinski, were distant finishers with less than 3 percent combined.

Cluck, 76, a physician, was elected mayor in 2003 after serving two terms on the Arlington City Council. He was supported by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, among others.

The red-light camera ban was approved with 15,884 votes or 59.51 percent. Opponent cast 10,808 votes or 40.49 percent.

“We did it! Red-light cameras are finally finished in Arlington, Citizens for a Better Arlington, the grass-roots organization that backed the ban said in a Facebook post.

In Fort Worth longtime city councilman for District 2, Danny Scarth, was ousted by Cary Moon. Moon received 60 percent of the vote, while Scarth, who took office in 2006, got 40 percent.

Moon, a businessman who lives in the Heritage area in the far north part of the district, had support from the Fort Worth Police Officers Association Political Action Committee and the Fort Worth Firefighters Association.

Scarth, who lives in Woodhaven at the southern end of the sprawling district, had built a big campaign war chest.

District 4 includes parts of east Fort Worth and stretches north along the east side of Interstate 35 to Golden Triangle Boulevard in the Alliance Corridor.

Mayor Betsy Price said she was sorry Scarth would no longer be a member of the council, but said she was sure Moon would fit in very well.

District 2 Councilman Salvador “Sal” Espino beat challenger Steve Thornton by a slim 25 votes. Thornton has asked for a recount in the close election.

Other members of the city council coasted to victory.

District 5’s Gyna Bivens beat challenger Bob Willoughby, 86 percent to 14 percent. In District 7, Dennis Shingleton had 79 percent of the vote over Andy Gallagher’s 21 percent. And District 8’s Kelly Allen Gray coasted past Sharon Mason-Ford, 78 percent to 22 percent.

In the Fort Worth Independent School District Board of Trustees races, all the incumbents won their races. Tobi Jackson won with 66 percent of the vote in District 2. Judy Needham had 81 percent of the vote, while Ann Sutherland had the closest race in District 6. Sutherland beat challenger Cecelia Speer, 56 percent to 44 percent.

In an open seat for the Mansfield Independent School District Board of Trustees, Michelle Newsom, daughter-in-law of the late Mansfield ISD Superintendent Vernon Newsom, received 66 percent of the vote over Nicole Wooldridge, who had 34 percent.