After a race decided by only 14 votes, businessman Bo French was sworn in as the next leader of the Tarrant County Republican Party Oct. 23 and promised party members he’d act as a unifier heading into the 2024 election cycle.
Three nominees — French, Fred Tate, the party’s treasurer, and Warren Norred, an Arlington lawyer — threw their hats in the ring to replace previous party chair Rick Barnes. Barnes stepped aside earlier this month to run for tax assessor-collector.
More than 200 Republican precinct chairs packed the pews of the North Richland Hills Cross Church on Monday night to choose which of the three would be their new party chairman.
Each precinct chair received a red slip of paper, on which they wrote the name of their selection. The slips were gathered up by a sergeant-at-arms, then hand-counted by assigned party members.
After two rounds of voting, French emerged victorious, despite mid-election jockeying. After the first round made it clear he didn’t have the votes, Tate withdrew his nomination and implored supporters to vote for Norred. Ultimately, Tate’s endorsement wasn’t enough to overcome French’s support among the precinct judges.
French received 118 votes in the final round, while Norred netted 104. After the results were announced, French told the crowd he was ready to get to work unifying the party that narrowly elected him.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “I’m gonna need all of you to keep doing what you’ve been doing, but we’re going to do more. I can’t wait to get started.”
The new chairman has been an at-times polarizing figure in Tarrant County Republican politics. He launched a Facebook page called “Thief Bill Waybourn” in 2016, targeting the current Tarrant County sheriff. At the time, French said the page was satirical in nature.
Also in 2016, Taya Kyle, the widow of famous Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, sent French a cease-and-desist letter that demanded he stop using her husband’s name and likeness in campaign materials. Taya previously alleged that French pushed her out of the company he and her husband had run — those allegations ultimately ended in a settlement.
Most recently, French acted as CEO for the 2022 Don Huffines governor campaign, where he said he helped raise $25 million.
Huffines joined Attorney General Ken Paxton, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi in offering congratulations to French on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare, himself a former party chair, also congratulated French.
French told people at an Oct. 18 candidate forum that unification of the party was a key issue for him. He touted his fundraising ability and promised to use it to keep Tarrant County red in 2024.
He also pushed back against calls for Republicans to dissociate themselves from Defend Texas Liberty, a PAC that came under fire after its leader hosted a multihour meeting with white supremacist Nick Fuentes. French is a former board member of Texans for Strong Borders, a group whose founder was also at the meeting with Fuentes.
Twelve Tarrant County candidates or elected officials have received money from the PAC since its inception.
“Just because somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who has said a bunch of unsavory racist things, doesn’t mean that the first person is racist and unsavory,” French said at the candidate forum. “That’s ridiculous. I’m not going to play that game, and neither should we as Republicans.”
Jonathan Stickland, the PAC’s former leader, has since been removed from this position. His replacement, Luke Macias, praised French after he secured the chair spot.
French will have four months in office before the March primary, where he could face a challenge from inside of his party for the seat. Tate confirmed he would not run against French, but Norred withheld any final decisions. He previously said his decision to challenge the chair would depend on whether he thought he was doing a good job.
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. Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.