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The fancy Ashton Depot was the site of the Tarrant County Republican Party’s Election Night shindig. The Dems’ “party” on the East Side was a pooper. Courtesy The Ashton Depot
New Face, (Likely) Same Ol’ Dems

Tarrant County Republicans have long out-fundraised, out-organized, and out-politicked Democrats while local Dems have done what their national brethren have: nothing, act shocked when they’re outmaneuvered (again), then get on their knees and beg for votes. More votes. As if this time, something different will actually happen. Nope. Just more nada, more sackless bluster, and more “vote harder” bullsh. Feh. The local GOP’s BDE (Big Dollar Energy) was on display in November, when Tim O’Hare celebrated his county judge win at the Ashton Depot, a luxe refurbished whistlestop downtown. A cursory glance at the Ashton’s website indicates that Tarrant County Republicans dropped easily $10,000 on food and drinks for a few hundred guests for a few hours — the Democratic Party met at a no-frills Eastside restaurant, where attendees had to pay out of pocket for Bud Light and mozzarella sticks.

Based on campaign finance reports, O’Hare raised $1.2 million in the judge race while Dem Deborah Peoples put up a paltry $377,391, and the disparity may account for Peoples’ whoopin’ at the tiny hands of then-unknown O’Hare.

For the Dems, there’s more than a lot of work to do, which may be part of the reason why the Tarrant County Democratic Party just elected a new leader. Crystal Gayden will need to pump up her limp base while unifying the disparate interests of moderate and progressive voters living under a Christian caliphate whose small-minded, small-membered leaders love loading up on big guns, hating on the LGBTQ community, and portraying peaceful Black protesters as rioters.

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The former Dem party head recently announced her resignation without saying why she’s stepping down from the volunteer position she held for two years. In a press release, Allison Campolo said she is proud to have expanded the party’s staff. Cue: pull-string confetti popper. Through a vote by precinct chairs, Gayden was elected to the open position with 86% of all ballots cast.

Campolo added that it is a “joy to know all of the hard work we have put in and accomplishments we have achieved over the past years will be continued and built on by [Gayden’s] vision and experience as a candidate and community organizer. This party continues to grow as Democrats increase their margins year over year in this great county, and we are ready to elect our next countywide Democrat. We look forward to [Gayden’s] leadership as she guides us into this critical 2024 presidential cycle.”

Gayden, who unsuccessfully ran for Tarrant County family court judge last year, is a respected attorney, active community volunteer, and staunch supporter of progressive values. While Republicans miscast Tarrant County as red even though a majority of us voted for President Joe Biden and senator candidate Beto O’Rourke, our densely packed region is primed for Democrat leadership. The antics of inept, evil County Judge O’Hare (see: pg. 4), our anti-government militia-loving sheriff, and our backdoor-dealing DA — all Republicans, all Trumptards — are wearing on our electorate, and the proper leader who can forge a future free of Christian Nationalist nonsense could galvanize voters who have so far been uninspired to perform at the polls.

Refusing to Recuse

People seeking justice through our county courts reasonably expect to have their cases heard by elected judges. While there are scarce resources to report judicial misconduct — the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct disciplines only about 3% of all judges facing sworn complaints — the most incompetent black-robed ghouls can at least be voted out every four years.

Dallas attorney Stephanie Rhima recently discovered Tarrant County’s lawless system for appointing visiting retired judges, many of whom routinely fail to file the two-part oath of office because doing so would prevent them from earning $750 a day on top of their lucrative retirement. Rhima expected elected Judge Cynthia Terry in April when retired judge William Harris appeared unannounced in the 323rd District Court and proceeded to jail Rhima’s defendant for alleged child support arrears.

Attorneys rarely question the authority of judges, especially in Tyrant County, but Rhima filed a request for copies of court assignments through what’s known as Rule 12. Harris, as she learned, was not assigned to the April 26 hearing. State government code mandates visiting judges have a valid Order of Assignment from the presiding judge of the administrative region for each assignment.

Rhima filed a Motion to Disqualify Harris in late June, and the motion was heard last week by visiting retired judge R.H. Wallace. One of our reporters who monitors judicial misconduct was present as Rhima made her case — that the elected judge (Terry) was available and should not have requested a visiting retired judge (Harris) and that Harris had no order of assignment, meaning he had no lawful jurisdiction over the April 26 hearing.

Rhima is waiting to hear back from the Secretary of State about her request for copies of Harris’ recently filed oaths of office, she told us. The rulings of any judge who does not have a current oath on file are absolutely void, based on Article 16 of the Texas Constitution and numerous rulings by the Court of Criminal Appeals that have overturned any judicial orders by unconstitutionally qualified judges.

In true Tarrant County form, Wallace denied the motion to disqualify retired judge Harris, who went on and signed an order exonerating himself from wrongdoing. Rhima plans to file complaints and publish articles in Texas law journals to describe how visiting retired judges get away with depriving residents of due process.

For two years, the Weekly has chronicled how Administrative Judge David Evans falsifies government documents so his retired buddies can defraud taxpayers of millions of dollars a year. To see an attorney take up the cause of holding judges accountable when they break the law is as refreshing as it is rare in our often lawless backwater.

Update: Judge Harris voluntarily recused himself from Rhima’s case on Thursday, July 6. 

More Guns = More Dead Kids

Firearms recently topped vehicular accidents and disease to become the top killer of children and teenagers in this country, based on findings by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We find that the United States is alone among peer nations in the number of child and teen firearm deaths,” Kaiser found, based on CDC data. “In no other similarly large or wealthy country are firearm deaths in the Top 4 causes of mortality let alone the No. 1 cause of death among children and teens.”

One in five deaths of minors results from firearms, the report found, compared to an average of 2% in similarly wealthy, large nations.

The prevalence of guns in a state where most households own a firearm is well known, and it’s little surprise that a disproportionate portion of some of the most horrific nonwartime mass shootings in the entire history of the world have happened here in Texas.

Surprise! Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States.
Courtesy Kaiser Family Foundation

United Way of Tarrant County recently launched an initiative aimed at curbing youth gun violence. The nonprofit says the One Second Collaborative is an “evidence-based approach to addressing youth violence” that connects community-based organizations to support young people and their families. Major stakeholders include the Fort Worth police department, City of Fort Worth, and Tarrant County with the latter two groups providing financial support.

Conducting an assessment of the scope of youth gang violence through a partnership with TCU, establishing a steering committee to identify problems and set goals, mobilizing intervention teams, reporting data, and modifying approaches as needed are the initiative’s main tenets.

Mayor Mattie Parker said the effort is “vital to addressing the gun violence impacting Fort Worth youth right now. The One Second Collaborative is just that — a unified, proven collaborative approach to address the youth gun violence in our community.”

Recent reporting by the Star-Telegram found that gun violence has claimed at least 101 young lives in Tarrant County since 2016.

This article has been updated to correct the number of years Campolo served as head of the Tarrant County Democratic Party.

This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for concision and clarity.

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