Following the announcement that Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley would not seek another term, five Republican candidates are vying for their party’s nod in the March 1 primary election.
This will be the first county judge election since 2007 where no incumbent is on the ballot. Whitley, a Republican, ran unopposed in the 2010, 2014 and 2018 primaries.
The county judge serves as Tarrant County’s chief elected officer for a term of four years, earning an annual salary of over $198,000.
Early voting in the primary elections starts on Monday, Feb. 14. Election Day is Tuesday, March 1. To find more information about polling places and voting by mail, visit Tarrant County’s elections website.
Despite the name, the county judge and the Commissioners Court are not judicial positions and instead focus on issues such as transportation, public health, property tax rates, and improving county buildings. Higher education, children’s issues and veterans affairs also fall under the court’s purview.
All five candidates have made it their priority to lower property taxes, support law enforcement and economic development as the county continues to grow. The winner of the Republican primary will face one of two Democratic candidates in the November General Election.
The Fort Worth Report spoke with the candidates to learn more about their goals if elected as county judge.
Byron Bradford, 50, is a small employee management business owner and retired service member. He served 29 years in the Army – 20 years of active duty and nine years in the Reserves.
As the only veteran on the ballot, Bradford hopes his background can show that service members can continue to be public servants that can uplift and earn public trust, he said.
“This race is not about me, but it’s what I bring to the table. It’s not about any of the other candidates either, to be honest,” Bradford said. “It’s about the people of Tarrant County having an option to choose who they want to choose to be the next county judge.”
If elected, Bradford said, his top priorities include lowering property taxes and encouraging economic development by promoting secondary education.
“We have to continue to find quality jobs for our residents of Tarrant County, and really promote not only college but also technical schools so we can be more innovative and create different opportunities for the younger generation,” he said.
Bradford wants to create safer communities by having stricter penalties for repeat offenders, he said.
“There have been several instances of DUI causing fatalities in our particular area,” Bradford said. “We need to come up with a harsher penalty or strict penalty for repeat offenders, especially with those repeat offenders that cause fatalities and are ruining families because of their lack of awareness or just bad decision-making.”
Robert Trevor Buker
Robert Buker, 38, has been working as a correctional officer for the past 10 years. A self-described constitutionalist, he said his experience in corrections allowed him to see that the judicial side needs some reforms.
Buker said he decided to run after seeing the political frenzy that plagued county and school board meetings.
“The biggest thing is if you’re not willing to follow the Constitution into your job, that’s a big problem,” he said.
Buker’s priorities include financial transparency and responsibility as well as election integrity. Among his goals, Buker said he wants to pull out of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which he claims is where the county has closed a lot of backdoor deals.
“Just kind of following with fiscal responsibility, not overextending our contracts, not going in deeper into debt and asking for bonds and causing property taxes to go up,” he said.
Buker also talked about issues he sees with the Tarrant County health director not having a medical degree or certification and his belief that the election administrator can swing a race. However, health director Vinny Taneja does hold a medical degree from India and a master’s of public health. There is no evidence election administrator Heider Garcia can impact an election’s outcome.
Tim O’Hare, 52, is a real estate investor and attorney who founded his own law firm in 2001. He began his political career in Farmers Branch, where he served as a council member for three years before serving as mayor from 2008-2011. In 2016, he was elected Tarrant County Republican chair and most recently founded the Southlake Families PAC, a conservative Judeo-Christian interest group in Southlake.
O’Hare was asked by many people, including “people of influence in the county” such as Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, to run for the open county judge seat, he said.
“We need some new blood. Having people in the same positions for 20, 30, 35 years, you need a different perspective, a different mindset, a different way of doing things,” O’Hare said. “You need to reset occasionally, and we’re due for one.”
If elected, O’Hare said, his focus will be reducing property taxes while balancing the budget, as well as protecting against what he calls “a growing anti-American sentiment.”
“We’re in a battle for the heart and soul of what kind of nation we’re going to be. We need somebody who will stand up for pro-American values and traditional values,” he said.
O’Hare will work to limit government overreaching resulting from COVID-19 protocols, he said.
“I would never shut down businesses. I would never close a church under any circumstances,” O’Hare said. “We need somebody that’s going to stand up for the small businesses that men and women own in Tarrant County.”
Betsy Price, 72, served 10 years as Fort Worth mayor and another 10 years prior as the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector. A Fort Worth native, Price has been the business owner of a car title and licensing company for 17 years. After many years in public office, Price said, she remains passionate about this region and wants to bring her extensive experience to the Commissioners Court as Tarrant County continues to grow.
Tarrant County is set to lose 64 years of leadership after this election. With Whitley and two commissioners, JD Johnson and Devan Allen, leaving the Commissioners Court, Price said residents need an experienced leader.
“I believe Tarrant County deserves strong, experienced leadership with the big break that we’re going to have,” the former mayor said, referencing potential future projects that may come the court’s way. “This is a make it or break it time for Tarrant County.”
If elected, Price said, her priorities would include lowering property taxes and improving public health accessibility.
“There’s so much opportunity [in mental health] to bring together all the other cities and our universities to help us be the best in the state at delivering on public health,” she said. “Then we’ll work with all of our other elected officials, from the jail to the county clerk and district clerk, to really be efficient.”
As mayor, Price made education one of her top priorities. She plans to continue that focus if elected county judge.
“I think we can call together all the superintendents and all the mayors and say, ‘How are we going to educate our kids to be our next workforce? What is it businesses need? And what are we doing to make certain that our students meet that need?’” she said.
The Fort Worth Report was unable to find any contact information or website for Kristen Collins. Multiple attempts were made to obtain contact information through third-party sources with no success.
Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.