In June 2021, longtime Tarrant County Precinct 4 Commissioner J. D. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election after serving on the court since 1983.
Along with Johnson, longstanding County Judge Glen Whitley and Precinct 2 Commissioner Devan Allen also are not seeking re-election, making three of the five seats up for grabs in the November election.
Two candidates with law enforcement backgrounds quickly announced their intention to fill the Precinct 4 seat: Johnson’s son, Joe D. “Jody” Johnson, a former Fort Worth police officer and currently the Tarrant County constable for Precinct 4; and Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association. Both are running as Republicans.
A third Republican, Larry Dale Carpenter Jr. joined the primary as well. Carpenter also has some familial connections to county government. He is the grandson of Don Carpenter, who was Tarrant County sheriff from 1985 to 1992.
On the Democratic side, Cedric C. Kanyinda is the lone candidate in the primary.
Precinct 4 is in the northwest corner of Tarrant County and includes portions of 15 municipalities and 10 school districts. It spans 265.7 square miles of Tarrant County, and the commissioner maintains 164.9 miles of County roads.
Key issues for the race that impact all of Tarrant County: growth and infrastructure.
“The things that sometimes commissioners get criticized for in terms of how contracts are awarded and that kind of thing directly relates to that infrastructure,” said Rebecca Deen, associate professor of political science and interim associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Arlington. “We’re talking about maintenance of roads, and that sort of thing. I think that those are the issues that surround the connection to place, to that specific part of the county.”
County commissioner races are partisan, but Deen said the Republican candidates represent a broad spectrum of their party.
Both Johnson and Ramirez have a list of supporters that include some traditional Republican support. The third Republican candidate, Carpenter, appeals more to the social conservatives in the party, she said.
“In some ways, I see the candidates reflecting the kinds of categories of candidates that I would expect in a Republican primary, in Tarrant County, but with interesting nuances that connect to these broader state and national trends,” she said.
Deen noted the emphasis on border control among the candidates, which connects to larger, state and national issues, but also appeals to many voters
“It is something that is very resonant among the voters they are trying to connect with,” she said.
James Riddlesperger, professor of political science at Texas Christian University, said the Precinct 4 seat is probably solidly Republican, but that most voters won’t pay much attention until closer to Election Day.
“This is a race where a few hundred votes either way could make a difference for a candidate,” he said.
Here’s a closer look at the candidates and where they stand on issues.
Larry Dale Carpenter
Carpenter says his top three issues are election integrity, mandates and infrastructure.
“Those are some of the three big issues that I definitely take into consideration when I’m running for county commissioner of Precinct 4,” he said.
Carpenter said he is running because he believes the country and Tarrant County are going in the wrong direction.
“The last thing I want to see is us to become something like a Dallas or Travis County,” he said. “I believe that the concerted values and what I hold dear is something that matches and definitely resonates with the people of Precinct 4.”
On his website, Carpenter also cites reducing tax burdens, education and opposing critical race theory and supporting law enforcement. He also says that if elected he will request a review of the Hart voting machines used in Tarrant County.
Recent campaign finance filings show that Carpenter raised $8,410.73 in the last six months of the year.
Ramirez is president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, an elected position in which he serves more than 1,700 civil service employees. He has extensive law enforcement experience, including service as a Fort Worth officer, detective and sergeant, along with assignments to the United States Department of Homeland Security National Gang Unit.
“I’m born and raised in Tarrant County Precinct 4 in the northwest, and you can’t drive a mile without recognizing that our infrastructure is 10 years behind where we need to be,” he said. Ramirez calls Precinct 4 the “final frontier.”
“Everything is built out to our east. Everything’s getting that way to our south. And it’s spreading northwest, and I fear that we’re not prepared for it, and we haven’t been. And a lot of that just goes back to the fact that we’ve not strategically planned in that area or in the entire county for the last five years. There is no plan,” he said.
On his website, Ramirez also cites issues such as public safety, border security, fiscal policy and public health.
Ramirez says county commissioners are in a unique position in local government.
“You don’t just serve as an elected representative. You serve as an elected executive. You truly are responsible day to day for the responsible management of your entire precinct,” he said. “And more than that, you’re part of the entire county. I think that it takes somebody who has executive experience, somebody who is educated, and somebody who’s actually been proven in times of turmoil to really do a great job in that position. I’m proud to have relationships with everybody who you need relationships with to make an effective collaborative government work.”
Ramirez has received endorsements from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and others.
Ramirez reported political contributions of $117,374.88 for the final six months of 2021.
Joe D. “Jody” Johnson
The Fort Worth Report reached out to Johnson several times, but he did not respond.
From his bio on his campaign website, Johnson, a two-term Republican constable for Tarrant County Precinct 4, says he began his 36-year career in public service in March of 1986 as a patrol officer for the Fort Worth Police Department. He was selected for the Fort Worth SWAT Unit, where he spent 15 of his 30-year career. He retired in 2016 as a member of the Fort Worth Police Mounted Patrol.
The website says public safety is Johnson’s top concern and also cites infrastructure, property taxes and immigration as top issues.
Johnson has received endorsements from his father, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder.
In the final six months of 2021, Johnson reported political contributions of $44,498.98.
Cedric C. Kanyinda
The Fort Worth Report reached out to Kanyinda several times, but he did not respond.
On his website, Kanyinda cites health care, infrastructure, housing, taxes and housing as key issues in the campaign.
Kanyinda, an IT professional, also ran for mayor of Fort Worth in 2021.
He reported no political contributions as of the end of 2021, but did report a loan of $5,000 to the campaign.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.