It seems like Tim O’Hare has Betsy Price on the defensive.
In their primary campaign for county judge, the Republican candidates have been trying to see who can swing further right to attract Fox Nation, and the fact that Fort Worth’s former mayor looks left-leaning by comparison to the Southlake power broker reveals just how deeply anti-truth the local GOP has become. Just like the national version of the party.
What most voters are likely missing is the undercurrent of white supremacy permeating O’Hare’s movement, and local media outlets have done absolutely nothing to name and neuter his outright lies and other textbook scare tactics.
Early on in his press releases, O’Hare sought to falsely portray Black protesters as inherently dangerous and violent. That’s racist, and it’s a lie. The vast majority of Black Lives Matter protests — 93% — were peaceful, according to a 2020 study by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit that researches political violence.
O’Hare also lied about Critical Race Theory (CRT), the academic framework that graduate students and professors use to analyze racism’s lingering and measurable effects on American society. By saying it’s a plot to indoctrinate children into communist ideology then falsely claiming that it’s taught in public schools, O’Hare successfully gave wealthy white parents in Southlake the means for pushing back on much-needed racial equity programs in the area’s Carroll school district.
In an email, Price said O’Hare’s misinformation campaign hurts the Republican Party and does nothing to advance conservative aims that focus on being pro-family and pro-taxpayer.
“I will not reduce myself to the tactics of a scared and desperate politician full of lies and deceptive messages,” Price said.
For voters who don’t follow the minutiae of our nation’s alt-right movement, terms like CRT and Black Lives Matter remain standard Republican talking points. For O’Hare’s powerful donors — who have donated more than $1 million to his cause — the language ties his campaign to a broader movement that seeks to protect the supremacy of white and wealthy U.S. citizens against perceived domestic enemies, i.e., nonwhite, non-wealthy Americans.
In The Atlantic in November, Ibram X. Kendi argued that right-wing extremists are equating anti-racist with anti-white, and that false equivalency is gaining traction among Republicans. In “The Mantra of White Supremacy,” Kendi cites Tucker Carlson’s invocation of a war-torn African nation as one of several examples of right-wing leaders and influencers suggesting that leftist elements are planning to mass murder white Americans.
“How do we save this country before we become Rwanda?” the Fox News liar said two years ago when propagating more misinformation, this time about CRT.
While most Americans realize the dangers of white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis, skinheads, and the KKK, those same people are less aware of the ideology that directly links hate groups to conspiracy theories spread on talk radio and Fox News, Kendi argues.
Further empowering O’Hare’s movement is a national schism in the GOP that has played out locally for the past five years. O’Hare recently delved into the rift that now defines Tarrant County politics when he spoke on The Wolf and the Shepherd Podcast, a local show hosted by an unnamed “Texan and a Brit.”
“We all thought we were on the same side until the last four years, [when] the RINO came about,” one host said, referring to so-called “Republicans In Name Only,” who do not share Donald Trump’s racist, bigoted, misogynistic worldview.
Betsy Price “said there was systemic racism in Fort Worth,” O’Hare said during the show. “My suspicion is that they don’t have a [racial] problem in Fort Worth. This is more liberal garbage that gets peddled on us every day, trying to create issues that don’t exist.”
For someone willing to blast Price for allegedly stirring racial tensions where they don’t exist — and in Fort Worth, they certainly do — O’Hare may be hoping that voters don’t delve into his early political career as a city councilmember (2005-2008) then mayor (2008-2011) of Farmers Branch in northwest Dallas County.
Early into his first term as councilmember, O’Hare pushed through an ordinance that, beginning in 2006, required landlords to check the citizen status of tenants even as immigration enforcement then and now remains the sole purview of the federal government. In a Dallas Observer article at the time, O’Hare was quoted as saying that Hispanics are “less desirable people” who don’t value education or take care of their properties.
Attorneys working for the City of Farmers Branch spent more than $5 million defending the law that was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.
O’Hare was mayor when the five-member Farmers Branch City Council, of which the mayor votes only in a tie, voted in favor of property tax increases in 2009 and 2010, according to city documents. His campaign’s recent announcement that he would effectively cut 20% of Tarrant County’s budget by slashing property taxes was met with alarm by County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican not seeking reelection after several terms in office. Whitley has not disclosed why he is not running. Many political insiders suspect he will seek elected office elsewhere.
In a recent open letter to Tarrant County’s mayors, Whitley addressed O’Hare’s campaign pledge directly.
“The same candidate campaigns that he is tough on crime,” Whitley said, “but the reality of such substantial budget cuts [would eliminate several] special units within the criminal district attorney’s office. Cutting the budget by 20% would have far-reaching and damaging effects in Tarrant County. It’s my hope that citizens will keep this in mind on election day.”
When touting his county judge credentials on the recent podcast, O’Hare cited his two decades of owning and managing his self-titled Carrollton-based personal injury law firm. According to 2018 court documents, Judge Tonya Parker with Dallas County’s 116th district court ordered disciplinary actions against one of O’Hare’s attorneys for tampering with evidence submitted in court. Parker said that in previous cases that she presided over, unnamed court officers said that altering evidence appeared to be not only permissible at O’Hare’s firm but was “sort of a firm-wide almost policy.”
At issue was a medical bill submitted by one of O’Hare’s attorneys earlier that year that, according to the judge, had been copied and pasted to resemble an original document.
Judge Parker: “You think that a lawyer can alter a document, not redact something, but alter it … to induce settlement?”
O’Hare’s attorney: “Your Honor, before a lawsuit is filed, either side can do anything to any piece of evidence they want to.”
Judge Parker: “Lord, have mercy.”
The judge ordered the attorney to complete 25 hours of ethics courses within 12 months.
O’Hare responded with quotes to only one of my questions via email.
“The notion that our firm had or has a policy of tampering with evidence is ludicrous and defamatory on its face,” O’Hare wrote. “My ethical reputation is without blemish as reflected by the State Bar, and my record [has] no disciplinary history of any kind. What the lawyer stated was completely inaccurate and nonsensical, and Judge Parker has never declared our firm had a policy of any such thing. I met with Judge Parker in her chambers a few days after the hearing and explained to her that what he said was a gross mischaracterization of how we handle a case. She told me she knew I had a good reputation and thanked me for letting her know. I can’t control what lawyers who work at the firm [say] in a hearing. He is no longer with the firm and was only with the firm a short time.”
The reply came from O’Hare’s attorney on behalf of the judge candidate and ignored all of my other questions, including one about homosexuality, a nonissue for most Americans. I had asked what steps he would take, if elected, to protect transgender children from discrimination and bullying. I later re-sent the question, and O’Hare responded that he believes the “Bible is the holy word of God,” which I took as a “nothing.”
On his website, O’Hare touts limited government, robust public safety, and strong job creation as his top priorities, echoing mainstream Republican priorities that he shares with his political opponent. O’Hare’s accusation that Price is a “RINO” stems not from economic policy differences but from a worldview that aligns his campaign with a fundamentalist belief system that views non-heterosexual relationships as sinful and wealth as a reward for being a faithful Christian.
On another website, this one with close ties to Fort Worth’s Mercy Culture Church, unnamed writers take aim at Price by falsely portraying her as a leftist gunning for abortions and shutting down churches — cities across the state temporarily closed churches during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, an act that likely saved countless lives. Price was simply doing her job.
The anti-Betsy bloggers go on to portray anyone in favor of LGBTQ+ rights as supporting “anti-family causes” even as the vast majority of Americans reject bigoted notions that some forms of love are OK while others somehow aren’t. The website that mimics O’Hare’s press releases is funded by Tarrant County Conservatives, and the PAC’s treasurer, Erik Richerson, is a worship leader at Mercy Culture Church.
In two recent PAC campaign finance reports, a business address that does not exist is listed, and there are no details about any source of income. Listing a false address and failing to disclose donors are both violations of rules set by the Texas Ethics Commission, the group authorized to undertake civil enforcement actions in response to a sworn complaint and impose civil penalties. At least one sworn complaint has been filed against the new PAC, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous.
Speaking at the home of a former Republican candidate last week, O’Hare, according to multiple sources, told the gathering that he does not manage the new PAC but does approve content for the anti-Price website.
Price said her campaign will remain positive and focused on her message of keeping taxes low while cutting government waste and protecting law enforcement funding.
“I am running a campaign based on my proven record and the decades of experience that I bring to the table,” she said.
Topping the endorsement page on O’Hare’s campaign website is Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president, credibly accused rapist, and all-around professional grifter who has publicly supported the Proud Boys, the alt-right group recently listed as a terrorist entity by Canadian officials. The two leaders of Tarrant County’s criminal justice system — Sheriff Bill Waybourn and DA Sharen Wilson — also have endorsed O’Hare’s campaign because of course they have.
During the podcast interview, O’Hare conceded that the Republican party has become a rural party that has largely lost control of urban centers — something that gives Tarrant’s elections national significance.
“We’re the last urban Republican county in America,” O’Hare said. “We don’t want to mess that up.”