Local political action committees are throwing their support behind longtime Fort Worth ISD trustee Tobi Jackson’s re-election campaign and fueling a bid for an upset in a west side school board race.

More than $85,000 flowed into seven candidates’ coffers between Jan. 1 and March 27, according to campaign finance reports filed with Fort Worth ISD. Four candidates accepted donations from political action committees and law firms that have had contracts with the school district, while three did not receive any. 

 One candidate reported no contributions while the most raised was $31,000.

On Fort Worth ISD’s west side, 19.9% of donations came from PACs, all of which went to District 5 candidate Kevin Lynch. His $10,000 donation from Great City Great Schools, former trustee Judy Needham’s PAC, makes up 37% of his $26,999 raised.

Needham did not immediately respond to a Fort Worth Report request to comment.

Since the fall, Evans said, she knew Needham would toss her support behind Lynch, the incumbent told the Report. However, Evans said she wanted to focus on the issues, including the continuation of the district’s academic improvement, rather than PAC support.

Jackson, in District 2, raised more than any other candidate and outraised everyone in PAC donations, which totaled $15,000 and 47.4% of her $31,605 raised. She also received $10,000 from the Great Schools Great Cities PAC, and she received $2,500 from both the Good Government Fund PAC and the For the Children PAC.

District 3 incumbent Quinton Phillps received one PAC donation — $2,500 from the For the Children PAC, which totaled 26% of his $9,608.30 raised.

Combined, candidates from districts 2 and 3 brought in 39% of its donations from PACs.

District 5

Most of the money in District 5 is going to Lynch and incumbent CJ Evans.

Lynch led Evans in fundraising, raising more than double that of the first-term trustee. Evans raised $10,225. The third candidate in the race, Josh Yoder, raised $3,870.

For every $1 Evans raised, Lynch received $2.64.

Evans’ contributors include the school board’s lawyer, Benjamin Castillo, who works for the O’Hanlon, Demerath and Castillo law firm. Castillo donated $2,000 to Evans. In March, Fort Worth ISD paid $7,637 to the law firm, according to district records.

Evans also received $2,000 from Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, a law firm based in Austin with offices across Texas and the nation. 

Linebarger collects delinquent property taxes for the district. The school board awarded a five-year contract to Linebarger in 2016 and extended it for an additional three years in January 2021. Jackson and Evans voted in favor of the contract extension; the vote was 7-2, according to district records.

Cantey Hanger, a North Texas-based law firm, donated $1,500 to Evans. Fort Worth ISD paid $7,340 to Cantey Hanger in March, according to district records. A lawyer from the law firm consulted the school board in its superintendent search in 2022

Lynch also was the top spender in the race to represent parts of west Fort Worth on the school board. He spent $31,165 to Evan’s $16,437 and Yoder’s $5,446.

Fort Worth ISD school board candidates Tobi Jackson, Mar’Tayshia James and Quinton Phillips speak to constituents at an election forum on March 30. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

District 2

Jackson outraised her challenger, Pat Carlson, by $31,000.

Carlson had three people donate a total of $400 to her campaign by the first campaign finance filing deadline on April 6. Under occupation for donors, all listed retired.

With only $400 raised, Carlson has spent over $46,000 of her own dollars on her campaign. 

Jackson raised $31,605. Her largest donors outside of her PAC donations include $2,000 from Linebarger. She also received $2,000 from Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association, and the Cantey Hanger law firm.

In addition to donations, Jackson loaned herself $25,000. Her expenditures totaled $17,814.17, leaving her with $47,531.47 in cash on hand.

District 3

In District 3, Phillips has outraised his opponents, with contributions totaling $9,608.30. Aside from his PAC donation, most of his donations ranged from $50 to $250.

Similar to Jackson, Phillips also received money from Poole, but it was significantly less at only $100. His largest donation outside of PACs came from Kevin O’Hanlon, who gave him $2,000. O’Hanlon is a founding partner at O’Hanlon, Demerath & Castillo, which represented Fort Worth ISD in a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott.

Valeria Nevárez raised $2,094.22 and has spent $2,056.41. She’s used $600 from her own money, leaving her with $637 in cash on hand.

Nevárez did not receive any PAC donations and her largest donation is $250.

Mar’Tayshia James did not file a report by the April 6 deadline.

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at kristen.barton@fortworthreport.org

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org

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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Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....