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Fort Worth's District 5 Candidates Vie For Last-Minute Early Votes

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Donavan Wheatfall, Candidate for Fort Worth City Council, District 5: I got involved in the race for City Council because I think we have lost touch back to the common person and we must have government that doesn't just look out for the big boys and the millionaires, but also looks out for the little people.

Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter: Donavan Wheatfall, a 28-year-old self-employed entrepreneur, got about 23% of the votes in May, less than half of incumbent Frank Moss' 48%. But Wheatfall, whose endorsements range from all previous candidates in this race to LULAC, is encouraged, pointing out that 52% of voters opposed Moss. Moss, who has been endorsed the Star-Telegram as well as the fire fighters, police officers, and realtors associations, isn't scared.

Frank Moss, Fort Worth City Council Member, District 5: I was 55 votes short (laughs). One of the things that really kinda got me in this whole process was not looking at issues, not looking what's going on in the district and looking at the platforms, there was basically just hate of me. And it was get Frank Moss. I think that's not necessarily the appropriate approach.

Cuellar: According to the current Fort Worth Weekly, Moss' tally was helped by hundreds of absentee votes filed by the elderly, some of whom felt manipulated by Moss' campaign workers. Though Moss would have won without the absentee ballots, he had only 12 votes more than Wheatfall among those who cast their ballots in person. Moss says Congressman Frost and Mayor Moncrief employ similar, perfectly legal practices to engage elderly voters.

Moss: 57% of all the votes are basically persons 65 and older. Specifically in certain areas, the South Side and Stop Six areas, you have very active senior citizens who don't want to go to the polls and vote. They vote absentee. That has been not necessarily what I've used but that has been a process within certain communities.

Cuellar: Wheatfall says Moss' constituents are fed up and eager for change.

Wheatfall: This campaign is not about Donavan Wheatfall, it's really about change for District 5. There is a movement and people are getting more excited about the opportunity to have some real representation downtown. Often they feel disconnected and disenfranchised. There is a movement here: black, white, Hispanic, Asian. We want representation that clearly communicates what city council is doing back to us.

Cuellar: Wheatfall sits in a pew at the Golden Gate Church of God in Christ, where he also works as an associate youth minister. As a native of Fort Worth's Stop Six neighborhood, he feels that despite his lack of political experience, his business and people skills would allow him to better serve residents here with basic concerns about crime prevention and trash pickup.

Wheatfall: The moment our customers, who are our citizens, don't feel as if we're providing adequate services then we need to do what any corporation would do and we need to look at our target customer base and make sure that they don't feel as if we're doing a poor job in customer service.

Cuellar: In his office at City Hall, Moss, a seasoned political veteran, points out he has worked for tens of millions of dollars in new housing, street improvements, and economic development in the district. Moss says District 5's varied neighborhoods face distinct challenges that are best managed through political processes.

Moss: If a neighborhood doesn't develop the capacity to deal with garbage issues, as far as knowing who to call in order to resolve a problem, it does them no good to just know my telephone number. But they've got to know the number that they need to call and to be able to pass that number on to some within that neighborhood. Because you cripple people when they know that all they have to do is know their city council member's number. They pick it up. They call it. He takes care of it. They don't know how it gets solved, they just know it got solved and they aren't concerned any more. I think the expectations, though, of citizens within the community is becoming more and more demanding.

Cuellar: Moss hopes Wheatfall and his supporters will continue to work toward improvements if he is re-elected. Wheatfall expects to win, but says if he loses, he would continue to police the city council. Today is the last day for early voting in the District 5 runoff. Election Day is this Saturday. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.


Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.