Traditionally, Tarrant County has a reputation for being staunchly Republican, but slowly that marker has been waning. And now Democrats in the third-most populous county are on the cusp of some major breakthroughs, though it won’t be easy.
The Signal spoke with Dr. Allison Campolo, who recently became the new Democratic Party Chair for Tarrant County, about the shifting demographics, increasing voter turnout, and what it will take to flip a number of important seats.
Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, has been marching steadily leftward for several cycles now. In 2020, Joe Biden actually narrowly carried the county. Last year, Democrat Deborah Peoples lost a close for mayor of Fort Worth, but the city council was flipped to majority democratic.
When discussing the changes to Tarrant County, Campolo invoked Beto O’Rourke’s adage from 2018 that Texas is not a red state, but a non-voting state. “The very same thing could be said of Tarrant County,” said Campolo. The population growth of Fort Worth has skyrocketed the last two decades, particularly from communities of color.
The key is actually turning out those potential voters. For Democrats in Texas eager to flip down-ballot races, Tarrant County has a number of abundant opportunities: including for state representative, county judge, and District Attorney.
Republican Sharen Wilson surprised many when she announced last year she would not seek re-election. When she was re-elected in 2018, she won with 53 percent of the vote. That prompted State Rep. Matt Krause, known for his infamous book investigation list, to drop out of the Republican primary for attorney general and announce he was running for Tarrant County District Attorney. Donald Trump even waded into the race, endorsing another Republican: Phil Sorrells.
Campolo wasn’t that surprised by Trump’s involvement in the district attorney’s race. “We’ve seen some outside groups getting involved in our Tarrant County cycle races,” she acknowledged. If anything, it underscores the importance of the county for both Democrats and Republicans.
And though there are ample opportunities for Democrats in many local races, Tarrant County was a prime target for Republicans during last year’s redistricting. State Senate District 10, currently represented by Democrat Beverly Powell, was carved up deliberately at the expense of minority communities. A retiring Republican state senator, Ken Seliger, even swore in a declaration that it violated the Voting Rights Act. According to Campolo, that “cracking and packing” is an attempt to dilute the voting power for communities of color.
Like her counterpart in Dallas County, Campolo has also witnessed alarmingly high rates of rejection for mail-in applications and ballots. “It has been really challenging,” she said. “It’s extremely discriminatory towards anybody who is elderly or disabled, it’s very hard to read, it’s very hard to read the instructions to do it correctly, and the instructions are confusing.”
With just a few more days of early voting before the primary election day, Campolo and her team are hitting the ground running. They partnered with several allied organizations in the region, trying to introduce as many voters as possible to a myriad of democratic candidates. After that, they are laser-focused on a big voter registration push before November. “We’re really energized, and we can hopefully bring up those races that are right below the top of the ticket,” said Campolo.
A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).