WASHINGTON – Who speaks for Fort Worth in the nation’s capital?

For more than 25 years the go-to member of the Texas delegation for Tarrant County has been U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

From securing funds for the Panther Island project to ensuring Pentagon funding for the F-35 fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin to saving the USS Fort Worth (she is the ship’s sponsor) from Navy cost-cutters, Granger has made her mark.

But will that still be the case?

There are now seven members of Congress who represent portions of Tarrant County after the most recent once-a-decade redistricting that realigned congressional and legislative districts in the 2022 elections.

There are two ways that the new lines divide Tarrant, and the most apparent is that the county is cut up so that there isn’t a singular voice for the region.

“Fort Worth is the new Austin,” said David Wasserman, the U.S. House expert for the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan analytical outlet. “It’s now been sliced up into a pinwheel.”

Austin, the 11th-largest city in the U.S., had been cut into six districts for nearly 20 years until the 2021 map created a concentrated “anchor” district that packed together Democrats and made Republican districts safer.

Tarrant County’s divisions carve up the county in such a way that Fort Worth, the 13th-largest city in the country, is also now the largest without an anchor congressional district.

In the second way the district divisions divide the region, there’s a twist highlighted by U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who says the lines are drawn in such a way that four of the seven lawmakers who represent Tarrant County also represent Dallas County.

“That’s significant. There’s always been that rivalry between Fort Worth and Dallas,” said Veasey, whose district is almost evenly split between the two counties.

He and U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, have represented both areas but as of the latest redistricting, there are two more: U.S. Reps. Jake Ellzey, R-Midlothian, and newly elected Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas.

It makes for a complex political landscape.

“The districts in Dallas-Fort Worth are more sawed apart than most districts in the country,” said Michael Li, a Texan who is a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

‘Who represents Fort Worth?’

Marc Veasey
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, speaks at the Northside Eye Care Center grand opening on Nov. 8, 2021. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

To Fort Worth’s Matt Angle, who is the director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic PAC, the divisions are all about racial divides as Republicans gerrymandered districts to protect the GOP.

“Who represents Fort Worth? Nobody. They’ve carved it to bits,” he said. The city is majority-minority but he said the influence of the voters has been “diminished by the map drawers.”

The Tarrant County congressional delegation now has two African Americans, Veasey and Crockett. There are, however, three members who represent a sizable portion of the county – U.S. Reps. Roger Williams, R-Willow Park, Veasey and Granger – who together form a “power” wedge and appear to speak with one voice on county issues.

“I think we work pretty well together,” said Veasey, a former state representative who was first elected to Congress in 2012. “I think we all speak for Fort Worth. Everybody in Congress knows me, Roger and Kay are from Fort Worth.”

Veasey said he and Williams like to joke they went to the same high school – Arlington Heights High School – although not at the same time. Veasey is 52 and Williams is 73.

Granger is chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Williams is chairman of the House Small Business Committee and Veasey is on two important committees for Texas, House Armed Services and House Energy and Commerce.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, represents a small portion of north Fort Worth in Denton County. 

For local officials with a vested interest in the delegation, it’s a good mix.

‘They work very closely together’

“We have great representation from Granger and Veasey,” said Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, a former district director for Granger, herself a former Fort Worth mayor. Granger and Veasey represent the major portions of the city itself and Parker is enthusiastic about the congressional service the city gets.

Mattie Parker and Kay Granger
Mayor Mattie Parker, center, greets members of the Western Caucus on the rooftop of Reata Restaurant on March 2. Rep. Kay Granger, (R-Fort Worth), left, and Sid Miller, Commissioner of Agriculture for Texas, right, also spoke to the caucus members. (Fort Worth Report/Bob Francis)

“They work very closely together,” she said. She also gives kudos to Williams and Burgess, a former medical doctor.

“While Fort Worth is shared among a few members of the delegation, the area will be well represented because each of us will work together to ensure Fort Worth’s voice is heard on Capitol Hill,” Burgess told the Fort Worth Report.

She also gave shoutouts to Van Duyne, a former federal housing official and Irving mayor elected in 2020, and Ellzey, elected in a special election in 2021 for the 6th Congressional District after the death of U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Arlington.

Asked about the challenge of dealing with so many members of Congress, Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare told the Fort Worth Report, “Working with the Tarrant County Congressional delegation presents less of a challenge than collaborating with over 80 elected officials currently serving at the county level.” 

As for the members themselves, Williams is particularly identified with Fort Worth because of his family’s car dealership, which is located in Weatherford.

“Fort Worth is a special place to me. It is a jewel of Texas and exemplifies Texas’ best values,” said Williams in a statement. “Fort Worth is home to many great small businesses, and every day these employers provide great opportunities for the over 780,000 residents in the area. I am excited to represent part of Tarrant County, and I look forward to my continued service to represent Texans and Main Street America in the 118th Congress.”

Said Van Duyne: “When it comes to looking out for the interests of Tarrant County, the various cities we represent, our infrastructure needs, public safety, and economic development, North Texas Members of Congress work in a bi-partisan way to deliver solutions and necessary funding for our region”

‘Our cities need a big voice in Congress’

Ellzey, a Naval Academy graduate, former Navy fighter pilot and former Southwest Airlines pilot, told the Fort Worth Report:

“Tarrant County, to me, means patriotism. It means standing for the flag. It means taking care of and honoring our veterans,” he said.

Ellzey and Veasey were among the members who accompanied President Biden on Air Force One to Fort Worth in March 2021 for a veterans event.

“Tarrant County is home to some of the country’s most remarkable and patriotic Americans,” Ellzey said in a statement. “Together, we have built a community that puts the country before self. From the Fort Worth VA clinic to the Arlington Medal of Honor Museum, anyone can see that love for our country and our state runs deep.”

And Crockett, the newest member of the delegation, also had a strong bipartisan message about the whole Fort Worth-Dallas divide:  

“The expansion of Texas’ 30th into Tarrant finally connects the vibrant communities, like Grand Prairie, that bridge two of the largest metropolitan hubs in the US – my home of Dallas and our neighbors in Fort Worth. I’m ready to fight for good jobs, fair pay, and equal treatment for the people of Grand Prairie and Arlington in Tarrant, just as hard as I fight for the people of Dallas County.”

“As one of the first Texas Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee in nearly a decade, my top priority is to reauthorize and expand SNAP in the 2023 Farm Bill so that North Texas is fed and healthy,” said Crockett, speaking about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program informally known as food stamps.

“Our cities need a big voice in Congress,” Crockett said, “and I’ll be as loud as I need to be to make sure they’re heard.”

Maria Recio is a reporter stationed in Washington, D.C. She can be reached via email at mwrecio@gmail.com or on Twitter.

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Maria Recio is a reporter based in Washington, D.C. She was a former Fort Worth Star Telegram reporter covering politics.