Fewer than 1,000 voters could elect the next trustee to represent southeast Fort Worth ISD.

This position will influence the school district for years beyond the three years that candidates Wallace Bridges or Dr. Brian Dixon will serve. The winner could influence who will be Fort Worth ISD’s next superintendent.

Bridges, a community organizer, and Dixon, a child psychiatrist, are in a June 18 runoff to represent the District 4 seat on the school board. They are competing for the few remaining engaged residents likely to show up at the polls.

Both candidates worked to convince voters to win this seat. Their campaigns have focused, in part, on wooing residents who backed Trischelle Strong, a former candidate who placed third in the May 7 election

However, Matthew Wilson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor, expects that is easier said than done. Strong’s voters likely won’t show up at the polls again because their preferred candidate was knocked out of the race, he said.

“It’s much easier if you can really motivate a core group to change the outcome of one of these elections than it is to change the outcome of a congressional race or a gubernatorial race,” Wilson said. “The challenge then is keeping people energized and motivated through multiple rounds of voting when there are runoffs.”

When to vote

Early voting starts June 6 and ends June 14. Polls will be open:

  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 6-10
  • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 11
  • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 12
  • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 13-14

Registered voters may cast their ballots at any early polling location in Tarrant County.

Election Day is June 18.

Strong threw her support behind Bridges, but she did not respond to a request to comment. Even with Strong’s endorsement, Bridges plans to reach out to her supporters and earn their support, he said.

Dixon’s campaign has focused on door knocking in areas of District 4 that supported Strong. In May, a Dixon volunteer, who declined to comment, was walking in Forest Hill, an area that houses the largest concentration of Strong’s voters. 

In a statement, Dixon said his team is reassessing the needs of the district. Dixon declined an interview with the Report after eight calls and eight emails. He responded only through email statements.

Bridges and his supporters have called Dixon’s residency into question. The Tarrant Appraisal District opened a review into his homestead exemption after a Fort Worth Report investigation into Bridge’s claims.

Johnny Lewis is a campaign volunteer for Bridges and resident in the Fort Worth ISD District 4. Lewis supports Bridges because he lives in District 4 and the candidate is a Fort Worth ISD parent, he said. Voter turnout is low because residents don’t see the changes politicians promised, he said. 

“They still see the same thing and, over a period of time, people just get worn down,” Lewis said. 

United Educators Association, a North Texas group for teachers, endorsed Dixon. The association endorsed Dixon because of his medical background in mental health and experience working with children, said Steven Poole, executive director of the association.

Poole hopes not only the association’s members but also more District 4 residents will vote. Poole acknowledged the reality of a runoff: Even fewer people will show up to vote.

“That’s why it’s even more important for folks to get out and vote,” Poole said,

The District 4 seat has seen contested races only in the past few years. T.A. Sims represented the area from 1983 until his retirement in 2019. Daphne Brookins succeeded Sims following a special election in 2019; she was later elected to a full four-year term in May 2021. Brookins died of COVID-19 in November 2021.

Voters are unfamiliar with the District 4 electoral past and the new faces in this race, said Wilson, the SMU professor. 

But local elections are important and have more of a direct impact on residents’ lives, Wilson said. Throughout the pandemic, the Fort Worth ISD school board called for a delayed school start date, virtual learning and mask mandates. These are policies that directly impact residents and their students.

Often residents don’t know anything about the candidates because the races are not high-profile offices, Wilson said. One consequence of low turnout in local races is that the impact of every vote is amplified. Any particular faction could shape these elections.

Bridges is reminding residents that Fort Worth ISD impacts all of them — not just parents. His selling point is to get reading and math scores up. When children’s reading scores are below grade level, it’ll affect the community, too, Bridges said. As those who fall behind in school may lose interest and see, as Bridges puts it, the “allure of the streets.” 

“They see some of these guys who are here hustling, doing a lot of negative things. ‘Oh, here’s a quicker way for me to make cash. This education thing? I don’t see anything coming out of that,’” he said. “And that’s how they tend to draw on what we call the negative elements in the streets.”

It’s a requirement for the local community to have a vested interest in what happens in schools, he said, because if schools grow, communities grow. 

Going door to door, block walking and direct mailers are some of the best strategies to engage with voters in local elections, according to the SMU political scientist. TV and radio advertising in an area like Dallas-Fort Worth is too broad because it would reach people who are not in the targeted district — and it’s too expensive.

Dixon is winning in the money game. He has raised more than double than Bridges’ campaign. Dixon has brought in $31,475 to Bridges’ $13,855, according to campaign finance reports.

The Great Schools, Great City political action committee donated $15,000 to Dixon’s campaign. Bridges also received PAC support. He received $3,000 from the Good Government Fund.

Dixon also has spent more than Bridges. Dixon has spent $22,046, while Bridges has used $10,728. 

Lewis, the District 4 resident, said he will promote Bridges’ campaign on his Facebook page. But he said he doesn’t want to post it too early before the runoff because people might forget. 

“We’ve got to find everybody,” Lewis said. “We got to go up onto every rock, every cranny, every nook, and we got to get people out to vote.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 3, 2022, to clarify Dixon’s title.

Chongyang Zhang is a summer fellow reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at chongyang.zhang@forthworthreport.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

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Chongyang Zhang

Chongyang Zhang graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2021. Previously, he worked for his school newspaper, The Shorthorn, for a year and a half.