Left, New Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare is the standard-bearer for right-wing political groups in the county. Right,TCU Professor Emily Harris suggested right-wing candidates target low turnout races to spread fear over diversity
Right-wing groups backing candidates for school board, city council in Tarrant County
JAMES RUSSELL | Contributing Writer
Seizing on the momentum of previous school board takeovers and the election of Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare, hard right conservatives in the county are now targeting incumbents in nonpartisan races across the county.
In the Fort Worth Independent School District, conservatives are backing Josh Yoder, Valeria Nevarez and Pat Carlson, who are challenging C.J. Evans, Quinton “Q” Phillips and Tobi Jackson.
Also running against Evans is Kevin Lynch, who is backed by former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and not running explicitly on social issues. Phillips also faces a third challenger, Mar’tayshia James, who is not running on a conservative platform.
Evans, it should be noted, is arguably the school board’s most conservative member.
Yoder has campaigned against diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which are designed to help people of color and LGBTQ people succeed wherever they are. He has also spoken against a sex education curriculum.
Carlson is well-known in politically conservative circles. She was the former chair of the Tarrant County Republican Party and of the staunchly anti-LGBTQ Texas Eagle Forum. She also has a history of inflammatory language against the LGBTQ community and Muslims.
According to the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal advocacy group, in 2012 Carlson was behind “a whisper campaign that led State Board of Education member George Clayton, R-Richardson, to acknowledge recently that he is gay.”
The school board challengers are backed by numerous conservative groups, including Patriot Mobile’s political action committee, which has ties to new county judge Tim O’Hare. The Grapevine based provider calls itself the country’s “only Christian conservative wireless provider” and is well-known for pushing conservative Republican candidates and conservative political causes.
After multiple cycles, Patriot Mobile PAC and grassroots activists helped conservatives finally take control of several suburban school districts.
As noted in a Quorum Report article however, those targets were already considered conservative strongholds, and not all those endorsed by the groups embraced the firebrand title.
Their hopes align with what O’Hare, their new standard-bearer, told a conservative group earlier this month. That’s to take control in what are traditionally nonpartisan seats in low turnout elections.
These crusades have percolated for a while and are not just isolated to North Texas.
“School boards have become targeted by conservative and right-wing agendas in a nationwide movement,” said Emily Farris, an associate professor of political science at TCU. “Nonpartisan school board races are historically low turnout, so these efforts spread fear over diversity and pandemic restrictions to mobilize voters.
“The effort began in North Texas with Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, so it is not surprising that it’s evolving to be even more to the right,” she added.
These conservative campaigns concern public school parent Jay Pritchard, a political consultant.
“Religious and racial bigotry should never be tolerated, especially from our elected representatives on school boards,” Pritchard said. “We are seeing it happen in Washington, D.C., and Austin, and we have to stop it at the school board level. My four kids have all thrived in both Dallas and Fort Worth ISD, and we need to continue to elect good people that understand urban school districts to serve on those boards.”
In Fort Worth city council races, councilmembers Elizabeth Beck faces former judicial candidate Pamela Boggess, Jason Lee Peña and Chris Reed. Jared Williams faces Italia de la Cruz and Tonya Carter.
The Fort Worth Excellence PAC, based in Colleyville and with ties to O’Hare, backs Boggess and de le Cruz. Like with the school board, activists would like to see Beck, Williams and Macy Hill, the frontrunner for the open District 7 seat who faces Jason Ellis and Caleb Backholm, forced into runoffs. Runoffs typically attract more diehard activists and increase the likelihood of an upset.
Another must-watch race pits Tarrant County College trustee Bill Greenhill against Laura Pritchett and Jack Reynolds. The challengers are running on a combination of Christian values and critical race theory, a graduate school framework, which is not taught in public schools.
Without naming Beck and Williams, O’Hare told a conservative group earlier in April that “One of them believes men can have periods,” O’Hare said. “Need I say anything else?”