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Charles Jackson (shown here) speaks to an unnamed Fort Worth police officer in a video that Republican county judge candidate Tim O’Hare is using to discredit his Democrat rival. Courtesy YouTube

Attorney Steve Maxwell expected a big crowd when he arrived at Tarrant County GOP headquarters on the East Side last month. Local Republican leaders organized the press event to announce the release of video footage that allegedly ties Democrat county judge candidate Deborah Peoples to voter fraud.

Maxwell and friend Art Brender, both of whom are former Tarrant County Democratic Party chairmen, grabbed a chair and made small talk with a Star-Telegram reporter.

“Only four people were there,” Maxwell said.

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Soon after the two sat down, an unidentified event organizer told them to leave.

“ ‘You guys are not welcome,’ we were told,” Maxwell said.

The video in question appears to show an unnamed Fort Worth police officer having an in-depth conversation about voter fraud with Charles Jackson, a homeless Black man. Based on records from the Tarrant County District Clerk, Jackson’s rap sheet includes two counts of assault, six counts of theft (two of which are felonies), three counts of possession of controlled substances, two counts of trespassing, and one count of providing false voting information.

One confidential source with close connections to Fort Worth police alleges that one or more Fort Worth cops tipped off members of Citizens for Election Integrity, a local right-wing group that peddles voter fraud conspiracy theories. The Fort Worth Police Officers Association has openly endorsed Peoples’ opponent for county judge, Republican Tim O’Hare.

The original open records request, which the city recently released, confirms that a member of Citizens for Election Integrity requested the footage last year. A police spokesperson said his department did not leak the video or knowledge of it to the elections group. Based on the original request, the unnamed officer’s last name is Cotten.

Citizens for Election Integrity is out to prove nearly nonexistent voter fraud because some Republicans wouldn’t win otherwise. In one website video, the elections group alleges that Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia, who previously worked for the voting system Smartmatic, has ties to vote rigging. Right-wing pundits falsely allege that Smartmatic was responsible for illegally flipping the 2020 presidential election in favor of President Joe Biden. Smartmatic attorneys are currently suing Fox News for $2.7 billion in damages for spreading lies about a stolen election, lies that singled out Smartmatic.

A spokesperson for O’Hare’s campaign ignored my requests for comment. Peoples declined to comment on this story, but she has publicly stated that the video amounts to false information from a desperate candidate.

With less than two weeks until the midterms on Tue, Nov 8, polling for Tarrant County’s most contentious race bodes well for Peoples. Her campaign released results from a PredictWise poll that show the former business executive leading O’Hare by eight points with 24% of voters still undecided. PredictWise does not disclose how many Tarrant County residents participated in the poll.

Supporters of O’Hare have latched onto Jackson’s misdemeanor charge of falsely signing a mail-in ballot to make him out to be at the center of an alleged voter fraud scheme. Based on a copy of Jackson’s indictment, this crime happened in 2018.

In the video, Jackson tells the officer that Peoples paid him $200 per falsified ballot, an allegation that Brender and Maxwell found to be absurd, given that Tarrant County Democrats work on a slim budget and that Peoples’ only position at the time, Democrat county chair, was and remains nonpaid.

“The guy’s credibility is so low, you don’t know whether to believe anything he says,” Brender said of Jackson.

Being a county chair for the Democrat party is an often-thankless position that party leaders rarely fight over, Brender added.

One local publication has gone all-in on promoting the video. Dallas Express is running a Facebook ad with a headline that leaves no room for nuance.

“Newly released body camera footage reveals a massive voter fraud conspiracy with the current Democrat nominee for Tarrant County,” Deborah Peoples, the ad reads.

The man behind the promoted post is Dallas Express publisher Monte Bennett, the Dallas-based billionaire who, based on campaign finance report disclosures, has donated $100,000 to O’Hare. Launched in 2021, the online publication repurposed the name of a longtime progressive Black-owned newspaper that closed in 1970.

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, who has endorsed O’Hare, said his office will not investigate the video’s authenticity, and the Tarrant County district attorney’s office has so far declined to look into the bodycam footage. The only law enforcement agency investigating the matter, based on public statements by Waybourn, is the state attorney general’s office, whose leader, the indicted Ken Paxton, narrowly avoided being disbarred for using his position to further the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. The disgraced one-term former president lost resoundingly and by 7 million in the popular vote.

In September, the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld its previous ruling that the attorney general must receive permission from county prosecutors to pursue voter fraud cases. Through an opinion, Judge Scott Walker explained the reasoning behind the ruling.

“I still agree with our original decision handed down in December, when we recognized that the specific powers given to the Attorney General by the Texas Constitution do not include the ability to initiate criminal proceedings — even in cases involving alleged violations of the Election Code,” Walker writes.

In the week before March’s primary, O’Hare’s team spread lies about opponent Betsy Price to skew poll numbers in his favor. In his baseless claims, he portrayed Price as pro-abortion and pro-riots. O’Hare’s supporters, according to multiple sources who have received phone calls from the Republican candidate’s team, are using the police cam video to sway Democrats to vote for O’Hare.

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