If you believe the political ads, District 11 candidate Rick Herring is a “MAGA Republican,” and his opponent Jeanette Martinez doesn’t have time for the job of council member. 

Politics have obscured the truth, both Herring and Martinez said. 

Martinez’s platform is centered around economic development, public safety, zoning and lowering property taxes. Meanwhile, Herring has emphasized encouraging neighborhood participation,  managing urban sprawl and improving public safety and lowering property taxes.

Despite their similarities in platforms, the two candidates have been cast in political advertisements as political opposites.

Political mailers and emails have pointed out Herring’s record of voting in Republican primaries since 2016. Herring said he does not feel the need to defend his voting choices; however, he said, his views are much more moderate than how they’ve been portrayed in political attacks. 

“I have been painted as some hard-core, right-wing Republican extremist, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Herring said. “I don’t really identify myself in any way politically. If someone ever asked me, I usually say I’m an independent.”

If Herring had to sum up his ideology, it would be centrist but leaning toward fiscally conservative and socially liberal, he said, pointing to his same-sex relationship. 

“City Council is nonpartisan. I want to do everything I can to keep it nonpartisan,” Herring said. “I think partisan politics has no role there, and that’s how I would approach it on council.”

Martinez, who declined a verbal interview with the Report, said she is a Democrat. 

“​​This is a nonpartisan race, but just like 65% of the voters who voted on May 6, I am a Democrat,” Martinez said in a response to written questions. “Regardless, once elected, I will represent all residents fairly.” 

Vote totals in District 11

Jeanette Martinez – 36% 
Rick Herring – 34%
Tara Maldonaldo-Wilson – 17%
Christopher Johnson – 6% 
Ricardo Avitia – 6%

Both Herring and Martinez also more or less align in their views on policing, too. Martinez, though, received an endorsement and contributions from the Fort Worth Police Officers Association. The candidates expressed their desire to improve safety in District 11 by supporting police through the city’s budget. 

However, both candidates also said City Council should provide more accountability and oversight to police. Martinez plans to “insist” Police Chief Neil Noakes appoint a Chief’s Advisory Council, which could serve to advise the chief and represent the interests of residents. 

“I am the candidate who is committed to making sure we have safe neighborhoods to live and raise families. The first thing we need to do is to use the method of accountability that we already have, but has not been used,” Martinez said. 

Herring understands that segments of District 11 residents distrust police, he said. 

“There needs to be work done there, and I’m supportive of every effort to make that happen,” Herring said. He has no connections to political action committees affiliated with police, he said. 

Tara Maldonado-Wilson received the third-highest number of votes May 6, enough to tip the election in favor of either candidate. Maldanado-Wilson, a progressive, endorsed Herring for the seat; she is now actively supporting his campaign. 

Herring shares her willingness to speak up for what is right, Maldonado-Wilson said, although she feels saddened by the fact that she is not supporting a Latina candidate. 

“Here’s the biggest part of this: Hispanics historically are not a monolith, ” Maldonado-Wilson said. “They are issue-driven voters… You have to be able to do the job first.”

While Herring’s political affiliation has drawn focus throughout the campaign, so has Martinez’s day job. She works as an executive administrator for Tarrant County Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Brooks. Herring supporters say the job creates a conflict of interest and is too demanding on her time. 

Fort Worth’s city attorney advised Martinez that any instance of conflict of interest would be rare and, if a potential conflict arose, she would be notified in time to recuse herself from any discussions or votes. 

“This is an issue pushed by opponents and not one that I ever heard as I talk to hundreds of voters door to door,” Martinez said. 

The city considers two standards when evaluating conflicts of interest, state law and city code. State law states that city employees must fill out a conflict-of-interest disclosure form if they have a business or family relationship with a vendor that works with the city. City code states city employees are not allowed to accept or solicit “any benefit from any person, group or business entity that might reasonably tend to influence the officer, employee or advisory board member in the discharge of his or her official duties.” 

Fort Worth routinely partners with the county to fund programs that benefit both the city and the county. For example, both the city and county are spending millions on early childcare education in a joint effort to make childcare available for low-income families. The city also partners with the county in areas like housing

Rather than distract her from her duties as council member, Martinez’s job with the county will be an asset to her constituents, she added. 

“In fact, residents consider my many years of experience serving these very same people at the county level to be a huge asset as I seek to serve them at the city level,” she said. 

Both Herring and Martinez also will likely contend with low turnout in the District 11 runoff. Just 7% of registered voters cast a ballot in the general election. Historically, even less turnout for the runoff. 

Despite no longer being in the race, Maldanado-Wilson said the election in District 11 remains crucial to the fate of the city. 

Maldonado-Wilson said whoever wins the seat will be tasked with representing 90,000 people. It’s crucial that the candidate is committed to representing everyone’s interests equally. 

“There are people here who have been neglected and ignored for over two decades,”  Maldonado-Wilson said. “They deserve somebody that’s going to stand up for them.”

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.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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Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...