While some are planning a summer vacation, others are preoccupied with how to make the polls the only destination on Fort Worth residents’ minds.
Monday, the two remaining candidates for Fort Worth mayor emailed supporters within minutes of each other.
Mattie Parker’s email at 3:41 p.m. contained a reminder that Wednesday is the deadline to register to vote in the June 5 runoff and linked to the Tarrant County Election Administrator’s website.
Deborah Peoples’ email at 3:44 p.m. solicited donations for yard signs that she hoped would serve as voting reminders.
In an interview with the Report, Peoples said Tuesday that her email soliciting donations for signs is emblematic of how she’d be as mayor. She said she had prioritized paying campaign workers over paying for signs until supporters started requesting them. She said that’s how she’ll continue to campaign and lead if elected.
“The way I will lead the city of Fort Worth is to make sure I am checking on people and investing in people,” she said.
Parker wrote in a statement that her campaign is also about people and that’s what makes it strong.
“The inclusivity of our campaign has been one of our biggest strengths — a team of diverse community and business leaders all working together for a safer and more prosperous future for every family,” she wrote. “Because of our positive campaign, our fundraising has certainly benefited.”
Both candidates will try to barrage Fort Worth voters during the next month, James Riddlesperger, a professor of political science at Texas Christian University, told the Report during an interview.
“The truth is they are going to do their very dead level best to carpet bomb the entire city with communications and particularly with free communications,” Riddlesperger said.
Riddlesperger said campaigning in Fort Worth is challenging because of its booming population. On one hand, it might be impossible to campaign solely by going door to door in a city home to nearly 1 million people. On the other hand, it might be too expensive run ads that broadcast to the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
“When you pay for television or radio ads here, five out of the six people you talk to aren’t even relevant to your election and yet you have to pay for that air time so it’s extraordinarily expensive,” he said.
For this reason, Riddlesperger said, Peoples’ and Parker’s campaigns may use a combination of the two approaches. Residents should expect more emails like the ones sent Monday, along with yard signs and mailers.
He said Parker has an edge over Peoples because she has deeper pockets and the support of much of Fort Worth’s establishment, including past and present Fort Worth mayors Mike Moncrief and Betsy Price. For every vote received Saturday, Parker spent $39.82 while Peoples used $10.57.
The Collective Political Action Committee told the Report in an interview last week that it will increase its donations to Peoples, which totaled $55,000 as of her latest campaign finance report, because it’s “critical” Fort Worth has its first Black mayor. Peoples, the Tarrant County Democratic Party chair, also announced endorsements this week from three Democratic state representatives.
“Without pigeonholing ourselves, we’d do as much or more. We want to make sure she wins,” the PAC’s founder and CEO, Quentin James, said.
Riddlesperger said Saturday’s results should encourage both women.
“Deborah Peoples has to be happy that she got more votes than anybody else,” the TCU professor said, “but Mattie Parker has to be excited as well. This is her first political campaign and to close within, what, about three points of Deborah Peoples is really encouraging.”
He said it will come down to which woman can get their supporters to the polls again June 5 and then which candidate can add the most Dr. Brian Byrd, Councilwoman Ann Zadeh and Pastor Steve Penate’s supporters to their ranks.
On those candidates’ Facebook pages after losing the election, their supporters were as dedicated as ever and wondering who to vote for in the runoff if they voted at all.
Beth Hodge wrote, “I’ll say it again, Ann: 2 years.”
And in the Tarrant County Republicans Facebook group, a post with the question, “How can I help get Mattie elected?” garnered even more questions, some from supporters of other candidates.
For example, a Penate supporter asked if Parker was paying people to canvas for her.
“I did hours of phone calls for Steve because I was passionate about his mission, but I think I’d have to be paid to do it for Mattie. Hopefully no one rips me on that, but just being honest. I’ll still vote for her and put a sign in my yard,” the Penate supporter wrote.
It’s been a decade since there was a runoff for mayor of Fort Worth.
In Tarrant County, there was 11% turnout in the June 18, 2011, runoff between Price and Jim Lane compared to an about 10% turnout of registered voters in the May 14, 2011, election when there were three additional candidates for mayor.
The Report asked Price how she got out the vote in 2011. Price, who also experienced a runoff for tax assessor-collector before her successful runoff for mayor, had this to say:
“At the end of the day, elections are elections. Ultimately, all you need for a runoff is just more of the same. Any candidate just has to come to a runoff with the same energy as the election itself, and keep working to convince people to make it to the polls. You have to keep reminding everyone how vitally important it is to vote in this election, because it will have such an incredible impact on the future of Fort Worth.”
Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter.